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Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 8

Thessalonians (Part 2)

One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 8
Watching Now
Thessalonians (Part 2)

Letters of Paul

Part 2

II. 1 AND 2 THESSALONIANS: A BALANCED VIEW OF CHRIST'S RETURN

A. Background to 1 Thessalonians

1. Acts 17:1-9

a. Paul's short time in town

b. Significant persecution by Jewish townspeople

2. Acts 17:10, 15; 18:5, 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 6

a. Coworkers' movements

b. Results in 50 or 51 in Corinth

B. 1 Thessalonians – Christ Will Return Soon

1. Greetings and thanksgiving (1:1-10)

2. Paul's ministry in Thessalonica (2:1-16)

3. Paul's concern since leaving (2:17-3:13)

4. Exhortations (4:1-5:22)

5. Conclusion (5:23-28)

C. Thessalonians and Christ's Return

1. Concern that Christ's return was delayed

2. 1 Thessalonians – "He is still coming soon"

3. Concern that Christ had already come (spiritually)

4. 2 Thessalonians – There are signs which must still occur

D. Exegetical Highlights in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4:12

1. Sustained praise (cf. extra thanks in 2:13, 3:9)

a. Rationale (2:13)

b. Theme (4:10)

2. Motives for ministry – parental affection (2:7, 11)

3. Compare/Contrast popular philosophy and theme of imitation (e.g., 2:3, 4, 5, 6)

4. Will of God (as consistently in Scripture) = holiness/moral living (4:3-4)

5. Twofold reason for work, with godliness (4:11-12)

6. Eschatology (4:13-5:11)

a. Apant sis and posttribulationism

b. (Matthew 25:6, Acts 28:15 are other 2 New Testament uses of term)

c. Encouragement vs. grief

7. 1 Thessalonians 5:22

a. Context of testing prophecies

b. "Appearance" (eidos) = "kind"

E. 3 Views of the Rapture

1. "Pre-trib"

a. Church Age

b. Rapture

c. Tribulation

d. Second Coming

2. "Mid-trib"

a. Church Age

b. 3.5 years of Tribulation

c. Rapture

d. 3.5 years of Tribulation

e. Second Coming

3. "Post-trib"

a. Church Age

b. Tribulation

c. Rapture/Second Coming

F. 2 Thessalonians – "But Not That Soon!"

1. Intro and thanksgiving (1:1-12)

2. Signs still to come (2:1-17)

3. Exhortations and Conclusion (3:1-18)

G. Background to 2 Thessalonians

1. If Pauline and after 1 Thessalonians

a. A short time after 1 Thessalonians

b. Increased persecution

c. Increased problem with the idle

2. Irrespective of authorship and order

a. Also from Corinth (or meant to appear that way)

b. Disruptions described in 2:2

i. Commonly seen as due to a forged letter

ii. But perhaps a misinterpretation of first letter

H. Exegetical Highlights of 2 Thessalonians

1. Literal translation of 2:2, 2:15 for background

2. 1:9 (and judgment more generally)

a. Regarding nature of hell

b. Regarding annihilationism

c. God's love comforting the oppressed

3. Chapter 2 – Identity of man of lawlessness restrainer

a. Problems with a rebuilt temple

b. But again meant to encourage

4. Chapter 3 (especially v. 10) – Winter, Jewett and a sociological reconstruction


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Transcript
  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

     

  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.

     

  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.

 

Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
nt512-08
Thessalonians (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript

This is the 8th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 

 

As with every topic we cover, much more could be said about the first three and half chapters of 1st Thessalonians, but we pass to the segment from chapter 4:13  - 5:11 on eschatology which tends to be the reason, at least in modern Christian life, that people turn to Thessalonians more than any other book. And here we think particularly of the picture in 4:16-17 in which the Lord will come down to earth from heaven or at least come earthward with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first after which we, who are still left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will ever be with the Lord. This is the one unambiguous text in all of the Scripture, though many would add other texts here and there to this one that describes to which Christians have come to call the ‘rapture’, from the Latin word rapio which translates the noun equivalent to the Greek verb translated here as being ‘caught up’. We use the concept of rapture in English for whoever is caught up in romantic affection for one another.  And in that sense of being seized or gripped and in this case in this word picture, being lifted from the earth to meet Jesus in the air, with the clouds in the air has become known as the rapture. 

 

But this is the only place in scripture specifically where this imaginary and this terminology is unambiguously used.  As a result, theologians over the centuries and particular among those whose approach to eschatology known as pre-millennialism of which we will speak in more detail when we get to the Book of Revelation.  A division into three major approaches to the rapture has been spawn. Perhaps best known in the modern western world is the view of the pre-tribulation rapture sometimes abbreviated as ‘pretrib’ rapture? Because so many text in Scripture talk about a period of tribulation immediately before the return of Christ and the end of human history as we now know it, it has become natural and understandable that theologians would ask how this rapture, chronologically, related to the tribulation and thus to the final public visible return of Jesus on the clouds. The ‘pretrib’ approach understands the rapture as being caught up to meet the Lord in the air here as an image which leads to Jesus and his followers turning around and returning to heaven, escaping the horrors that human history has ever known representing by the tribulation and then descending with the Lord for his second coming and events of the final judgment that follow. 

 

A second approach has come to be known as the mid-tribulation rapture or ‘midtrib’ in which a view of the rapture is adopted that is tied to a division of tribulation separated into two periods of time, one in which persecution of believers is not as intense as the second and it is only this latter half, sometimes linked to the full unleashing of God’s wrap on this earth that believers will exempt from. This is the least common view throughout Christian history, depends largely on an interpretation of Revelations Chapter 11 to which we will return. But for the sake of completeness, it is presented here. Finally the view that has prevailed throughout church history, not as well known in the last 150 to 175 years of American church history, is the post tribulation rapture in which believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds in the air who is in fact descending as part of the parousia at the end of the tribulation, they then turn around and join him in his descent back to earth functioning as a kind of welcoming party escorting him to this earth for the events surrounding the final judgment and resurrection of all people living and at the very least, dead believers as well. Fortunately, nothing involving a Christian’s salvation is at stake in this debate and therefore applying the principles we learn from Galatians chapter one, this debate should never be seen as a central one that could divide Christians with any animosity from one another, that could prevent fellowship or joint efforts for the Kingdom. 

 

What else should we glean from 4:13 – 5:11 without arguing that one must adopt it, it is the most likely or the correct approach to the debate about the relationship between the tribulation and the rapture. It is at lease worth noting that the term used for the meeting of believers with Jesus in 1st Thessalonians is the term apantesis in Greek which appears in two other places in the New Testament. Once in Matthew 25:6 in which the bridesmaids form the escort party to join the bridegroom on the way to the brides’ house to complete the marriage ceremony and the celebration there. And again in Acts 28:15 when an escort party of Christians have left Rome upon hearing that Rome and the other shipmates of his were now coming along that road to Rome. They meet him and escort him back to Rome in the exact fashion the post-tribulationists imagines believers welcoming Jesus in the air in a triumph by to the earth. It is also worth noting that while trying to find texts among those early church fathers who clearly were pre-millennial. There are no unambiguous references to a pre-tribulation rapture until the writings of John Nelson Darby, the founder of the Plymouth Brethren demonization in Scotland. In about 1830, a movement that then flourished, particularly among Scottish immigrants to America and it was influential among those who founded the movement known as dispensationalism spawning such well known institutes as Dallas Seminary and Moody Bible Institute under the leadership of people like Lewis Berrie Jayber and C.I. Scofield whose reference Bible became the standard for generations of American evangelical Christians and indeed Christians around the world in missionary work initially emanating from American dispensationalism . 

 

That the pretrib view is recent and little attested in Christian history does not in and of itself disqualify it, but it is of little known historical fact and in many circles that at least put into perspective that perhaps the strength for various other options is something worth considering. But, and this is a big one; it is very clear that Paul doesn’t want this or any other passage of his or any other Scriptural authors apocalyptic teaching about eschatology ever to prove divisive. Apocalyptic is always written for the encouragement of beleaguers Christians and 1st Thessalonians is no exception. Chapter 5:18 says therefore encourage one another with these words not split yourself off into warring eschatological factions. And verse 13 begins the entire section; he does not want people to grieve over the loss of Christian loved one, at least not in the way that non-Christians do who have no hope. We must focus on what Christianity in its orthodox manifestation has always agreed on. That Christ will return, that believers will be resurrected and glorified and so shall we be ever with the Lord as the end of verse 17 puts it. And this gives us all the hope we need even if we never agreed this side of eternity on some of the finer points of eschatology. 

 

Finally, I have chosen to make some brief comments on chapter 5:22 because it continued to be mistranslated and misapplied in many Christian settings around the world. The NIV reads, beginning with verse 20, ‘do not treat prophesies with contempt but test them all, hold on to what is good, reject whatever is harmful.’ The New American Standard Version somewhat more literally reads, Verse 22: ‘Abstain from every form of evil and fortunately many people have read or have heard others quote, using the language of the King James, in which the term for the Greek term, Adoss is rendered appearance, Abstain from or avoid every appearance of evil. And in English, the word appearance is ambiguous. It can mean something that looks like something else even though it really isn’t. For example, I saw a small dark brown flat rectangular object on my desk at a distance and it had the appearance of Chocolate. But when I got closer to it, I realized that it was a dark mahogany wood chip instead.  Because of that possible English meaning of appearance, this command has often been used to warn, sometimes in a very heavy handed way, Christians from doing things which were morally neutral or even potentially beneficial simply because someone might misunderstand it, and because in some context, it might have the appearance wrongly though that perception was of evil. But the Greek word, Adoss, had no such meaning and therefore this application of this passage doesn’t apply. The kind of appearance that Adoss referred to was the kind of appearance we speak of when we describe a newscaster on the verge of retirement, having his or her last appearance on the nightly network news. This is appearance in the sense of the presence of the real thing and so it is more appropriate to translate 5:22 as avoiding or obtaining from every form or kind or actual manifestation of evil. It doesn’t say anything about what someone should do in a situation where one might be misunderstood as doing evil. Indeed if one would apply that latter approach to every situation in life, one might never get out of bed, but not getting out of bed might be misunderstood for laziness and inaction. So we would find ourselves in a situation that would be impossible to obey Scripture’s teachings. 

 

We turn now to 2nd Thessalonians, a shorter epistle, a large percentage of scholarly comment has been taken up with the two issues: first on whether or not Paul wrote this epistle and also to the question of the order of the letters, the reason for putting 2nd Thessalonians after 1st Thessalonians was first of the two letters together and secondly to put them in decreasing order or length. Neither of which requires 2nd Thessalonians to have been written chronologically after the first epistle. And nothing in the text of either letter even hints at Paul trying to disclose for us the order in which he wrote these two letters. I will pass over these issues however in this supplementary lecture since I have gone into some detail into them and referred readers to other sources that present considerably more detail than in my written textbook. The outline, however, is worth brief comment; just like 1st Thessalonians, one finds introductory and thanksgiving, more or less conventional in nature occupying the first chapter, followed by a letter body. The information of which spans chapter two, the exhortation portion, a good section of chapter three followed by closing greetings at the end of chapter three. There is no lack of thanksgivings as there is in Galatians and no extra thanksgiving as there is in 1st Thessalonians. This is the purest example of a standard Hellenistic letter form of Paul we have looked at.

 

We have already mentioned that the overriding content leading to a common identity of chapter 2:2 as the thesis sentence for this second epistle to the Thessalonians. It is to warn the church there that simply because Christ is returning despite his apparent delay and that at least from God’s perspective, one can speak of that as happening soon, it is not so soon that believers should stop working or it is likewise not some they need to fear that has actually happened and they’ve missed it because they didn’t realize that it as an invisible spiritual event not publicly discernable by all believers.

 

Additional background information that’s worth stressing; if Thessalonians was written by Paul (as viewed by this lecturer), and if it was written after 1st Thessalonians, then we can note that are at least three corollaries.  First, 1st Thessalonians itself must have been written a short time after Paul’s founding of the church there. Due to his ongoing concern about their well-being that led to send his companions back there or at least to send Timothy back as Silas had moved on. We know that because Corinth is likewise the only place in the Book of Acts where we know for sure that Paul and Silas and Timothy ministered together after the founding of the Thessalonian church and given the continued sense of concern and urgency by the writer of Thessalonians for the well-being of the church. So if Paul wrote 2nd Thessalonians after 1st Thessalonians, it was written a comparatively short time afterward 1st Thessalonians. So it should also be dated around the period of AD 50-51.  On this assumption of authorship and order, it’s clear from the opening chapter of 2nd Thessalonians that the persecution has increased and that the problem introduced in 1st Thessalonians now elaborated on in 2nd Thessalonians 3 with those who have stopped working. Irrespective of the order of the two letters and the authorship of 2nd Thessalonians, we may likewise add that it seems to follow as a corollary that 2nd Thessalonians does emanate from Corinth or at least was meant to appear that way by virtue of the description in the opening verse. And that chapter 2:2 whether or not formerly identified as a thesis state for the letter as we have suggested earlier on does point to the fundamental disruption theologically speaking and probably sociologically as well. 

 

Chapter 2:2 reads that we should not become unsettles or alarmed by the teachings allegedly from this trio of early Christian leaders, and goes on, whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter asserting that the Day of the Lord has already come. Again, for the sake of slightly more literal translation, at least in respect to word order, we may read the New American Standard in which the three express the hope that the Thessalonians not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message, or more literally, a word as if from us, to the effect that the Day of the Lord has come. As a results and because the clause as if from us comes immediately after a reference to a letter, it is often been viewed as Paul having received the word that a forged letter in his name has taught false eschatology to the Thessalonians which he must now correct. But again with Howard Marshell with his New Century Bible Commentary, he correctly points out that syntactically the use of the clause as if from us after the paired tirade of either by a spirit or by a message or a letter, most naturally modifies all three options. So that it may have been some alleged Christian prophecy, the supposedly spirit of the lord or some less formal oral instruction or a letter or any combination of these which has given rise to the Thessalonians misunderstanding. 

 

Intriguingly, it is Paul with his companions alone, who in a short period of time preached Gods word to the Thessalonians, preached it in such a way that they believed it was the very Word of God and thus inspired by the Holy Spirit, even if not in the same inerrant way that the Spirit inspired Scripture and who subsequently wrote one and two follow up letters to the Thessalonians. Is it not therefore with Marshall, perhaps, certainly plausible and maybe even probable that it was the combination of Paul’s preaching and his follow up letter that caused the misunderstanding of teaching that Christ was coming back so immediately that some could quit work and simply wait for the moment to happen? Teachings that seemed to be from Paul, but in fact it was a misrepresentation of Paul’s work. There is no way of being sure but it does seem to be as plausible as the alternatives. We have commented on a rendering of chapter 2:2, the approach that has been suggested is perhaps supported by chapter 2:15 as well where Paul reiterates to his Thessalonian brothers and sisters the imperative to stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. There’s no mention of Spirit there but the other two options reappear and here there is no question that Paul is talking about the oral and written instructions that the three communicated to them.  

 

Returning to chapter 1 and now preceding sequentially through the epistle for a few additional highlights. We see Chapters 1:2 – 12 as the extended thanksgiving for this short epistle contains a response to the persecutions that the Thessalonians are experiencing from their non-Christian neighbors. Some of the strongest words of God’s promised judgment are made of those persecutors on judgment day. Chapter 1: 9 epitomizes such judgment, perhaps even climaxing it with the promise that these persecutors who do not know God, who do not know the Gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his mightiness on the day when he comes to be glorified (verse 10) that is when Christ returns to initiate final judgment. 

 

Elsewhere in the New Testament, the two most common metaphors for hell are fire and outer darkness, metaphors which if either were pressed absolutely would cancel each other out. To speak of them as metaphors makes hell no less real but perhaps 2nd Thessalonians 1:9 provides in non-metaphorical terminology the agonizing reality that those other metaphors depict other exclusions from the presence of God and all things good. On one hand, some Christians who are understandably troubled by this depiction of hell have often wondered that the concept of everlasting destruction, noted here and other places in Scriptures support what has come to be as the doctrine of annihilation. Namely that unbelievers’ eternal judgment will simply be a fact that they will cease forever to consciously exist whereas believers will have a chance to spend eternity with God in Christ in the company of all the redeemed. That debate requires a look at many other scriptures besides this one, but as we’ve pointed out in our textbook, the only reuse of the exact terminology of Paul in 1:9 comes in the Old Testament of 4th Maccabees where the context makes it very plain that everlasting conscious torment is in view. But can Christians countenance a God who threatens such on unbelievers? Let’s never forget that this is apocalyptic and still designed to encourage the oppressed. 

 

It is fascinating that in an age of great tolerance and relativism, of great pluralism and inclusivism, one area that even very liberal religious people or supposedly irreligious people regularly do not tolerate and cannot tolerate others tolerating is injustice against the minorities of our world, of the many different categories and rightly so. The Bible is similarly occupied with themes of justice for the oppressed and marginalized, stigmatized and the outsider of many different kinds. But never forget that the first Christian communities for the first three hundred years of their existence were one of those oppressed groups by Rome as well as more sporadic personal and local persecutions by Greeks and Romans alike; thus in this context, Paul promises judgment on the persecutors to encourage the Christians that justice will be done. Because it will never be fully carried out in this world even with Christians and others best efforts. And if it would be carried out perfectly in the age to come then neither believers nor others need to take God’s judgment into their own hands, not least because how imperfectly and at times improperly it will be carried out. They can, as Old Testament prophetic texts repeatedly suggest, reserve God’s vengeance for him, for he is the Lord. 

 

Chapter 2 presents us with fascinating texts that are perhaps better known at least as controversial theologically thinking: What are these signs of the times? What are these extra events that must happen? We read in 2:3, don’t let anyone deceive you in any way for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, a man doomed to destruction, he will oppose the good and exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped so that he sets himself up in God’s Temple proclaiming himself to be God. Who is this man of lawlessness? Inter-testamental Jewish apocalyptic likewise envisioned a diabolical arch enemy of God’s people emerging and it is likely that it is that this same kind of figure whom John refers to in his epistles as the anti-Christ; in the Book of Revelation as a beast that is empowered by the dragon that is Satan himself. But something or someone is preventing him from appearing. Verse 6 says, ‘you know what’s holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way.’ In the original Greek the expressions for the one who is holding this man of lawlessness back is in the neuter and masculine forms respectively suggesting both a power and a person and suggestions have ranged from the church to the Roman Empire or the power of government more generally to God himself. Whatever the restrainer turns out to be, the theological point on which all perspectives agree is that, it is God’s sovereign will to determine when these events take place and his people should stop trying to guess when they would occur. 

 

But what about the latter part of verse 4, that the man of lawlessness or the anti-Christ will set himself up in God’s temple? When Paul wrote this in 50 or 51 AD, God’s temple would naturally suggest to his readers, the Jewish temple still standing in Jerusalem, but it was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, never to have been built again to this day. Dispensationists therefore have often wondered and even confidently proclaimed that there must be a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem on the site of the original one as one of the signs that the end is near. There are problems with this interpretation however; one is that it means in those centuries no Jewish people were anywhere near Israel and technology was not what it is today, it simply would not have been possible with any short period of time for a temple to be rebuilt and thus those scriptural teachings about the possibility of Christ’s return coming at any time would simply have been false. A more theological problem involves the purpose of such a rebuilt temple. The only theological function of the temple was over against the synagogues that dotted the Jewish landscape throughout the places they lived, was that it was the one place designated by God for animal sacrifices of which in the Christian dispensation have been done away with once and for all. To reinstate them would be to implicitly go against the finality of Christ’s sacrifice.  

 

A final problem with taking the temple of God here as the literal Jewish temple rebuilt in Jerusalem is that in every other place, Paul uses an expression like this; he is referring to the church of Jesus Christ or Christian individuals within it, metaphorically as temples. Given all these reasons to question the necessity for a rebuilt temple is unfortunate that some Christians continue to support the tiny group of ultraorthodox Jews who would like to see a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, especially when this creates such a greater adverse and hostel situation internationally and locally with all of the ethnic groups and religions and nationalities competing for access to Jerusalem as a holy site. But once again, hopefully this sound repetitive, these are the debates that Christians should occupy themselves with, though sadly at times we have because apocalyptic is meant to encourage. So chapter 2 ends verse 17 with a prayer that Christ might encourage our hearts with this eschatological teaching and strengthen us as the prayer was for the Thessalonians that they be strengthened in every good deed and word.

 

Finally, we turn to chapter 3 for a brief follow up comment on those who have stopped working. As we mentioned a bit earlier there may be a sociological as well as an eschatological dimension to this problem. Bruce Winter and Robert Gewit as well as others have studied this topic at length in recent years including an analysis of the archaeology of Thessalonica, the likelihood that the poor early Christians there would have lived in two and three storied densely populated crowded apartments, to use the equivalent modern terms for them. That it would have been very natural for Christians living in the same building to share a communal meal with one another in which they also celebrated the Lords supper and that perhaps realistically, this was the only meal in which the rule of 3:10 could ever have been enforced. Anyone who is unwilling to work shall not eat. Perhaps there were those that still depended on their patriots in a sociality of patriots and clients about which we will talk in more detail in our introduction to 1st Corinthians in our next lecture. But to use a rough temporary analogy, perhaps there were those who were used to munching off the richer people rather than looking for jobs when they could have done so when work would have been available. We must not read 3:10 as a social or political comment against all forms of a well-fair state. Every sociality have the helpless needy who would love to provide for themselves but can’t and compassionate people whether government or religious organizations or any other combination of groups. 

 

We should be very concerned to see that the basic needs of such people are met, but the most literal rendering of the Greek in this particular passage is not, if anyone will not work as if Paul had used the future tense of the verb, to work, but as we read in the NIV, anyone who is unwilling; there is a separate verb there, to will. Those who do not have the will, the readiness, though they have the capability, the opportunity should not be given free hand outs. Much for temporary application, not least in the whole area of eschatology, perhaps we have stressed disproportionately to its degree of emphasis in these two letters, but if combine that emphasis with exhortation to holiness in behavior in the work place and in every area of life including the issue of simply doing the very best one could do at all times to provide for oneself and not be dependent on others. We look at the contemporary church and it is arguable that the crucial application for our day is that we should simply stop writing and reading all supposedly non-fictional or fictional representations of when the end will come and how it will come as long as there are other aspects of God’s will that we have not yet perfectly mastered. And that should give us enough to be occupied profitably in service to God and his Kingdom, particularly in areas we are not doing very well in business ethics, theology of ethical living in one’s work whether it is ever accompanied by explicit Christian witness or not, sexual ethics, hardly any comment needs to be made in that area and in general, a quest for holiness in every area of Christian living.