CONTENTS.—Paul, after the address and salutation, commences this Epistle by rendering thanks to God for the welcome intelligence he had received of the increase of the faith and love of his Thessalonian converts, so that he was enabled to boast of them throughout all the Churches of Achaia, on account of their steadfastness in the endurance of continued persecution. Their present suffering was an evidence of a future state of retribution, when the justice of God would be vindicated, and affliction would be rendered to their persecutors and rest to them the persecuted, on that great day when the Lord Jesus would appear in glory for the destruction of his enemies and the glorification of his people. The apostle expresses his constant prayer for the Thessalonians that God would enable them to walkworthy of their high vocation, so as to be made partakers of that glory which would be conferred on believers at the advent.
2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus. This Epistle, like the former, is written in their conjoint names, as all three were engaged in the planting of the Church in Thessalonica. Unto the Church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (For the exposition of these two verses, see remarks on 1 Thessalonians 1:1, where the address and salutation are almost entirely the same.)
2 Thessalonians 1:3
We. Not to be restricted to Paul, the plural being used for the singular, as is elsewhere the case (1 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:1); but inclusive of Silas and Timothy, inasmuch as they are mentioned directly before (see note to 1 Thessalonians 1:2). Are bound; feel ourselves morally constrained. To thank God always for you, brethren. The apostle first praises his converts for what good was in them, before he censures them for their faults, and in this manner he secures their attention. As it is meet; as it is right and proper in the circumstances of the case. The words are not to be considered as a parenthetic clause, far less as a tautological expression (Jowett); but they state that the reason of the apostle's thanksgiving arose from the spiritual condition of the Thessalonians; "with the acknowledgment of personal obligation, Paul joins a recognition of the circumstances of the case" (Hofinann). Because that your faith groweth exceedingly—superabounds—and the charity of every one of you all. The subject of the apostle's thanksgiving was the increase of the faith and love of the Thessalonians: faith here being faith in Christ, and love being love to man. Faith and love contain in themselves the whole of the Christian life; faith is its commencement, its source; love is not only its outcome, its spiritual action, but its completion; the climax of the Christian life is to be made perfect in love. Here, however, love is restricted by the context to love to believers, or brotherly love. Toward each other; that is, toward your fellow Christians in Thessalonica. Love is not a mere general affection, but is to be specially manifested—"toward each believer." Aboundeth; increaseth in intensity.
2 Thessalonians 1:4
So that we ourselves. "We"—Paul and Silas and Timothy, the founders of the Church of Thessalonica. "We ourselves," not merely we of our own accord (Hofmann), but we as well as our informants, who brought us this intelligence of the increase of your faith and love. Glory in you in the Churches of God; that is, in those Churches with which we come in contact; namely, the Church at Corinth and the Churches in Achaia. It would appear from this that several Churches had been founded in Achaia, as, for example, the Church of Cenchrea (Romans 16:1). For your patience and faith; not to be weakened as a Hebraism for "your patient faith," or "for the patience of your faith;" nor is faith to be taken in the sense of faithfulness or fidelity (Lunemann); but, as in the previous verse, it denotes "faith in Christ." Patience is steadfast endurance, which, in order to be of any value in the sight of God, must be combined with faith; stoical endurance is not here nor anywhere else inculcated in Scripture. In all your persecutions and tribulations—afflictions—that ye endure; or, are enduring; the persecution which arose when Paul was at Thessalonica being continued. The patience and faith of the Thessalonians shone the more brilliantly amid persecution and affliction, even as the stars shine brightest in the dark night. To be a true Christian in the time of peace is a great matter; but to be a true Christian in the season of persecution is a greater; faith is then tested in the furnace.
2 Thessalonians 1:5
Which is a manifest token. A sentence in apposition, so that the words, "which is," printed in italics, ought to be omitted. By "token" is here meant pledge or proof. The reference is not simply to the Thessalonians, but to the whole clause—to the fact of the Thessalonians steadfastly enduring persecutions and affliction; in other words, to their sufferings for the sake of the gospel. Of the righteous—just—judgment of God. Not to be referred to the present state, and particularly to sufferings perfecting the Thessalonians and preparing them for the kingdom of God (Olshausen); but to the future judgment. These words imply that the sufferings of the righteous and the prosperity of their wicked persecutors was a clear proof that there shall be a future state of retribution, when the inequalities of the present state of things will be adjusted, when the apparent violations of justice will be rectified, and when matters will be completely reversed—when the persecutors will be punished and the persecuted rewarded (comp. Philippians 1:28, "And in nothing terrified by your adversaries; which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation and that of God"). That; in order that, indicating the purpose of God's dispensation. Ye may be counted worthy. Paul here finds, in the faith and patience of the Thessalonians amid persecution, an evidence of a state of reward, as well as in the cruelties of their persecutors an evidence of a state of punishment. The idea that man can merit salvation as a reward from God is not contained in this passage. As all men are sinners, salvation can only be obtained through the merits and mediation of Christ. But with this grace of God, justice is not abolished; the righteous will be rewarded for their faith and patience (comp. Hebrews 6:10; also Hebrews 11:6; Luke 6:35; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 John 1:8). Of the kingdom of God; namely, the Messianic kingdom which Christ will establish at the advent: here the heavenly state. For which; for the sake of which. Ye also suffer; or rather, are suffering; the sufferings being continued down to the time when the apostle wrote this Epistle.
2 Thessalonians 1:6
Seeing it is; or rather, if indeed it is; if so be that it is (R.V.). A hypothetical sentence, not, however, introducing an uncertain or conditional fact, but an emphatic assertion—what is felt by all to be true. A righteous thing with God. Not only will the justice of God be displayed in the rewards of the righteous, in counting them worthy of the kingdom of God for which they suffer, but it will also be displayed in the punishments to be inflicted on their persecutors. To recompense tribulation to them that trouble you. We have here an example of one of the most common defects of our English Version in rendering cognate words by different terms, and thus creating needless perplexities and giving rise to erroneous interpretations; the words "tribulation" and "trouble" are cognate, and hence the verse ought to be rendered as in the R.V., "If so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you."
2 Thessalonians 1:7
And to you who are troubled—afflicted—rest. The word "rest" here is a noun in the accusative, not a verb, as English readers might at the first glance suppose. It literally denotes relaxation, case. The meaning of the passage is that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense rest to you who are afflicted. The recompense of the persecutors—those who afflict, is affliction; the recompense of the persecuted—the afflicted, is rest (comp. Matthew 11:28, Matthew 11:29). The rest or relaxation here mentioned is that which awaits believers, not in this world, but in the next, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest" (Job 3:17). "There remaineth a rest for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9). The happiness of heaven on its negative side, as freedom from earthly affliction and persecution, is here stated. It is rest to the weary, freedom to the enslaved, release from sorrow, suffering, and pain, relaxation from toil, ease from noise and turmoil, the quiet haven of peace after being tossed about in the tempestuous ocean. With us; that is, not with us believers in general, or with us the apostles, the champions of the faith, and still less with us Jews, the saints of israel; but with us, the writers of this Epistle, namely, Paul and Silas and Timothy. When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed; or, more literally, at the revelation or apocalypse of the Lord Jesus. The advent of Christ is generally expressed by another word, parousia, denoting "presence;" here the word is apocalypse, bringing before us in a more vivid manner the visible manifestation of Christ. The advent of Christ is the period when he who has hitherto been concealed will be manifested as the supreme Ruler and Judge of the world. From heaven; where now he is concealed from human view, seated at the right hand of God. With his mighty angels; not with his host of angels, but, as it is in the margin of our Bibles, "with the angels of his power"—serving his power and proclaiming his might. It is the uniform declaration of Scripture that Christ will come to judgment attended by his holy angels (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:31; Jude 1:14). And these angels are "the angels of his power," sent forth to execute his commands. By their instrumentality the dead shall be called from their graves, and the wicked separated from among the just (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 13:49).
2 Thessalonians 1:8
In flaming fire; not the instrument of punishment—"in flaming fire taking vengeance;" but a further description of the glory of Christ's appearance—"revealed in flaming fire." In the Old Testament God is represented as appearing in flaming fire, as when he manifested himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2; Acts 7:30); and especially his coming to judgment is represented as coming in fire (Psalms 97:3). What is there asserted of God is here referred to Christ (comp. Revelation 19:1-21 :22). There is also a probable reference to the Shechinah or cloud of glory in which Christ will appear for judgment trey. 2 Thessalonians 1:7). Some also suppose a reference to the fire of the universal conflagration which shall usher in the last day (2 Peter 3:10), and others to the fire which shall consume the ungodly, but it is best to restrict the expression to the glory of Christ's manifestation. Taking vengeance; literally, giving; that is, awarding or allotting vengeance, representing the act, not of a conqueror or of an avenger, but of a righteous Judge. On them that know not God—the unbelieving Gentiles—and that; or rather, on them that; a second class being here denoted. Obey not the gospel of our Lord Jests Christ; namely, the unbelieving Jews. The ignorance of the one and the disobedience of the other were the causes of their punishment.
2 Thessalonians 1:9
Who; namely, the unbelieving Gentiles and Jews. Shall be punished; literally, shall pay the penalty; shall suffer punishment (R.V.). With everlasting destruction; or rather, even everlasting destruction; the words being in apposition. "Destruction'' here denotes ruin, death; the word is only used in Paul's Epistles (1 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; 1 Timothy 6:9). The Greek word translated "everlasting," from dogmatic reasons, has given rise to much controversy. Here it appears to denote eternal—eternity to come. The eternal punishment of the wicked seems here asserted; a terrible declaration, which the mind shudders to contemplate. The observation of Olshausen is worthy of attention: "This is the only passage in Paul's Epistles in which everlasting damnation is openly declared, whereas not a few occur in which a bringing back of all the lost ones is apparently assumed as possible;" but he adds, "For the supposition that Paul did indeed in the earliest of his Epistles still teach everlasting damnation, but gave it up in later times, there exists no sufficient foundation, because the bringing back again is nowhere freely and openly declared."£ From the presence (or, face) of the Lord. This clause has received a threefold interpretation. Some (De Wette, Hofmann) take the preposition "from" in a causal sense, denoting the efficient cause of the punishment of the wicked—that they will be as it were blasted by the face of the Lord. Others (Chrysostom, Theophylact) take it in a temporal sense, denoting the swiftness of the punishment of the wicked—that their punishment will rise directly on the appearance of Christ (Lunemann, Alford). And others take it in a local sense, denoting banishment or separation—that the wicked will be expelled from that joy and glory which reign in the presence of Christ; they shall be banished away from the presence of the Lord. This last interpretation seems to be the correct meaning; it gives to the proposition its full force. And from the glory of his power; not a Hebraism for "his mighty glory" (Jowett), but from that glory which has its origin in his power—the wicked will be banished from the manifestation of his power in the glorification of his saints. The punishment of the wicked on its negative side is here stated. As the presence of the glorified Jesus will constitute the happiness of heaven, so banishment from his presence will constitute the misery of hell, because the soul is then cut off from the source of all good and of all holiness.
2 Thessalonians 1:10
When; defining the period when this judgment of the wicked will occur. He; namely, the Lord Jesus. Shall come to be glorified; the purpose of his coming. In; not "through," or "among," but "in," as the sphere or element of his glory. His saints; not the holy angels who will accompany him to judgment, but holy men whom he has redeemed with his blood. Christ will be glorified in his saints, inasmuch as their glory was the result of his sufferings and death, and their holiness is the reflection of his holiness; "They will reflect as in a mirror the glory of the Lord." And to be admired; wondered at, praised. In all them that believe; or, believed. The work of faith is past; the result of faith, the state of sight and glory, has commenced. The glorification of believers will thus become the glorification of Christ. The glory of Christ does not arise from the punishment of the wicked, but from the glorification of believers. Christ will indeed be glorified in the punishment of the wicked. His justice will be manifested and vindicated; but his glory will be especially seen in the manifestation of his mercy toward believers. Because our testimony; namely, the testimony of Paul and his associates, Silas and Timothy. Among you; or rather, unto you. Was believed; to be considered as a parenthesis. In that day; namely, the day of the Lord's advent, to be connected with the commencement of the verse, "In that day when he shall come to be glorified in his saints." Some, overlooking the parenthesis, render the words either, "because our testimony concerning that day was believed among you;" or, "because our testimony among you shall be believed on that day"—assented to by the whole universe; but the first rendering gives a false meaning to the preposition, and the second a false construction to the verb, as if it were future.
2 Thessalonians 1:11
Wherefore; with a view to this consummation, in order that Christ may be glorified in you. We pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling; or rather, of your calling (R.V.). The calling was, properly speaking, only the commencement of the Christian life, but as it was the first link in a chain that terminated in glory, it is used to denote the whole Christian life—your vocation as Christians. And fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness. The pronoun "his" is not in the original. The words have been differently rendered: some render them "all God's pleasure in our goodness;" others restrict both words to mean "every desire of goodness" (R.V.). And the work of faith; that faith which is active, living, productive of good works (see exposition on 1 Thessalonians 1:3). With power; or, in power; to be taken adverbially, and to be connected with the verb "fulfil:" "That God would mightily fulfil in you all moral goodness, and a faith which is energetic."
2 Thessalonians 1:12
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; or simply, of our Lord Jesus, "Christ" not being in the original. The "name of our Lord Jesus" is not a mere periphrasis for the Lord Jesus himself, but the name denotes his nature and character. The second petition of our Lord's prayer is "Hallowed be thy Name," and this the apostle applies to Christ; he prays that his Name may be hallowed among the Thessalonians—an incidental proof of his divinity. May be glorified in you, and you in him; a twofold glorification: Christ is glorified in believers, when by their holiness they promote his cause and reflect his glory; and believers are glorified in Christ, when they receive out of his infinite fulness. According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Some suppose that the epithet "God" also belongs to Jesus Christ, but the construction hardly bears this meaning.
2 Thessalonians 1:4.—Christian patience.
1. Its nature. It denotes steadfast endurance. Negatively, not stoical endurance or apathetic fatalism. Positively, a spirit of calm submission to the providence of God and resignation to his will.
2. Its source. It has its root in faith; it is one of the fruits of the Spirit; and it is combined with hope.
3. Means of acquiring it. Pray to God as the Giver of patience; look to Christ as the Example of patience; submit to affliction as the cause of patience; cultivate faith as the support of patience; and meditate on heaven as the goal of patience.
2 Thessalonians 1:6, 2 Thessalonians 1:7.—A future state of retribution.
Rewards and punishments in this world are unequally distributed. The righteous are often persecuted and afflicted, whereas the wicked are often happy and prosperous. Herod sits upon the throne, and Christ expires on the cross. But this state of things shall be rectified. Christ shall recompense to the wicked tribulation—they shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord; and he shall recompense to the righteous rest—they shall be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which they suffer.
2 Thessalonians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.—The manner of Christ's second coming.
1. He shall come in person. Not merely in spirit or in power, but in a visible form; he shall be revealed from heaven; every eye shall see him.
2. He shall come in power. He shall be accompanied by the angels of his might, who shall execute his commands, call the dead from their graves, assemble together the elect, separate between the righteous and the wicked, and consign the wicked to the abodes of woe.
3. He shall come in glory. "In flaming fire"—in the Shechinah, the cloud of glory.
4. He shall come in justice; punishing the ungodly and rewarding his faithful servants.
2 Thessalonians 1:9, 2 Thessalonians 1:10.—The coming of Christ for judgment.
1. Its reality. The difference between his first and second coming. Then he came to save the world, now he shall come to judge the world. Then he came as Son of man, now he shall come as Son of God.
2. Its purpose. He shall come to award punishment to his enemies; they shall be forever banished from his presence, the Source of all happiness, the Author of all holiness. He shall come for the salvation of his people—to conquer all their enemies, to rescue their bodies from the grave, to acknowledge them as his before an assembled universe, and to receive them into the abodes of eternal happiness.
2 Thessalonians 1:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:12.—Christ glorified in his saints.
1. By their holy conduct they display his character. His image is impressed upon them; they mirror forth the glory of the Lord.
2. By their active exertion in well doing they advance his glory.
3. Their future glorification is the glory of Christ. The glory of his work, in that he saved them; the glory of his grace, in that he redeemed them; the glory of his power, in that he has rescued them from all their enemies. Throughout eternity believers will be jewels in the Saviour's crown.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
2 Thessalonians 1:3
Thanksgiving for the spiritual progress of the Thessalonians. Timothy had brought the apostle tidings of their faith, their love, their sufferings, and their patience.
I. THE GROUNDS OF HIS THANKSGIVING. "Because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward each other aboundeth."
1. The marked growth of their faith. At his last writing to them he had hinted at deficiencies in their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:10), but he had now learned that it had grown exceedingly.
(a) in its strength
(b) and in its range.
The Thessalonians had been able to receive new truths, and to bear the shock of persecution with calmness. Their faith worked by love (Galatians 5:6), and the trial of their faith worked patience (James 1:3).
2. The marked growth of their love to one another. He had prayed for an increase of love among them, and he was thankful that his prayer had been heard.
(a) Their persecutions had endeared them the more to each other.
(b) They "looked not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Philippians 2:4).
They "bore one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). They were "kindly affectioned to one another with brotherly love" (Romans 12:10).
II. THE OBLIGATION AND APPROPRIATENESS OF HIS THANKSGIVING. "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet."
1. The apostle regards it as a positive debt which it would be injustice not to discharge, for he feels that God is the true Author of all the blessings they had received.
2. He regards it as demanded by the very proprieties of the case. "As it is meet"—that this recognition should be made.—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 1:4.—The apostle's interest in the Thessalonian Church as manifested by his praises of it to other Churches.
He had formerly listened to their praises from the lips of other Churches; he could now sound their praises at Corinth and elsewhere, ascribing all the while due praise to God.
I. THE GROUND OF HIS PRAISES. "For your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure."
1. Afflictions, whether in the form of sharp persecution or of more general trouble, are the lot of God's faithful children. They are "appointed thereunto" (1 Thessalonians 2:3).
2. It is the glory of a Christian to bear such afflictions with patience and faith. The Thessalonians had not been "moved by these afflictions" (1 Thessalonians 3:3).
II. IT IS NOT UNLAWFUL, BUT EXPEDIENT, THAT A MINISTER SHOULD GLORY IN HIS PEOPLE. Not in their social rank, or riches, or numbers, but in the graces of the Spirit manifested in their life. The apostle elsewhere advises us not to glory in men, but in the Lord. But in this case the glory is given to God, not to man.
III. IT PROMOTES THE SPIRITUAL WELFARE OF CHURCHES TO HEAR OF THE SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL IN OTHER CHURCHES. The example of faith, love, and patience at Thessalonica would stimulate the saints in all Greece.—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 1:5.—The significance of these sufferings in relation to Divine judgment.
He comforts them with the thought of the certainty of the future judgment.
I. THERE WILL BE A RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF MEN. "Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Psalms 58:11). The afflictions of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked in the present world are not inconsistent with this righteous judgment. The problem is an old one, how to understand the mystery of Divine providence. The Book of Job sets forth its conditions and its mysteries. The disturbing effect of sin is not sufficiently considered in estimating the character of the Divine administration. It is the inequalities in Divine providence that lead us to expect a future rectification of wrongs; for God's judgment is righteous.
II. THE PATIENT HEROISM OF THE SAINTS IS ITSELF A SIGN OF GOD'S RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT. "Which is a token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may he counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer."
1. It is not that believers suffer, receiving here their evil things, while the wicked receive their good things.
2. It is not because God is just and there rest be a future judgment.
3. It is not that the persecution was an indication how the judgment would go at the last clay.
4. It is that the patience of the saints accredited them, by the righteous judgment of God, as meet heirs of his kingdom, while it was a presage of the coming judgment, when the future would bring its double compensation for the present. The idea is the same as in the Philippian Epistle: "And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God" (Philippians 1:28). It follows, therefore,
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.—The future judgment as to its righteousness, time, circumstances, and results to the two classes concerned in it.
The apostle proceeds to set forth the certainty of the Divine judgment as affecting the saints and their persecutors.
I. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THIS JUDGMENT. "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you; and to you who are afflicted rest with us."
1. An appeal is made to man's innate sense of justice. A want of this element of justice in human character is regarded as a defect. A right-minded man is indignant at wrong, and delights in the retribution that fails upon wrong doers. This sentiment of justice is but a reflection of Divine character, for we are made in the image of that God who hates sin with "a perfect hatred' (Psalms 139:22).
2. God is "not unrighteous who taketh vengeance" (Romans 3:5), for he has established in his government of the world an inseparable connection between sin and misery. Therefore we may expect to see a Divine retaliation upon transgressors—"affliction to them that afflict you"—the penalty partaking of the very character of the sin. On the other hand, God is not "unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love." The afflicted shall be recompensed with "rest," as well as reward for all their patience.
II. THE TIME OF THE JUDGMENT. "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven."
1. There is a day appointed for the judgment of the world; for God "hath appointed a day in which he wilt judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained" (Acts 17:30, Acts 17:31).
2. The day is that which is to be the manifestation of the Lord from heaven. He is now in heaven, "sitting at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56); but he shall then come forth in glory to those who "wait for him," to the judgment of the world.
3. The time of the judgment is unknown to man. The day of the Lord "shall come as a thief in the night."
III. THE SUBORDINATE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE JUDGMENT.
1. The angelic retinue. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with the angels of his power."
(a) They "gather together his elect from the four winds" (Mark 13:27).
(b) They "shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity, and shall east them into a furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:41, Matthew 13:42).
2. The flaming glory of his manifestation. It shall be "in flaming fire;" not as the instrument of vengeance, but as enhancing the glory of the Divine presence. "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people" (Psalms 50:3, Psalms 50:4).
IV. THE RESULTS OF THE JUDGMENT TO THE TWO CLASSES.
1. The class of persecutors. "Those which afflict you."
(a) The first class refers to Gentile persecutors. "They know not God." Ignorance is their great sin. They had resisted the light of nature.
( α) It was wilful ignorance, for they had the truth brought to their doors in Thessalonica;
( β) their ignorance made confidence in God impossible,
( γ) as well as an intelligent worship of God.
(b) The second class refers to Jewish persecutors—"that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." As ignorance was the sin of the Gentiles, disobedience was the sin of the Jews. They knew God, but rejected the gospel of Christ. They were fiercer persecutors of the saints even than the Gentiles.
( α) Christ is the Author of the gospel as well as its theme.
( β) The gospel is to be obeyed as well as received, and is therefore called "the obedience of faith;" for faith without obedience is dead, as obedience without faith has no value.
(a) The judgment is everlasting destruction. This does not imply annihilation—an idea equally opposed to Scripture and to the facts of natural science. The term "everlasting" associated with it neutralizes the idea of annihilation, which implies a point of time in which the wicked cease to exist. The duration of the punishment will be as the duration of the blessedness (Revelation 16:1-21 :26; Hebrews 9:14; Matthew 25:46).
(b) It involves separation from "the face of the Lord, and the glory of his strength." It is heaven to "see Christ as he is," to be "with him where he is, that they may behold his glory." The sum of all woe is, "Depart from me." A great gulf is fixed between the saved and the lost (Luke 16:26). The wicked are to be outside the apocalyptic city of God. "Outside are dogs" (Revelation 16:14, Revelation 16:15).
2. The class of saints. The results of the judgment as affecting them are thus described.
(a) They are heirs of it, as children of God.
(b) They are called into it.
(c) The kingdom "shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High" (Daniel 7:27). "The saints shall judge the world" (1 Corinthians 6:2, 1 Corinthians 6:3). They shall "inherit the kingdom" (Matthew 25:34). This is "the grace that is to he brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13).
(a) There is a rest—a sabbatism—"for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9). They "shall rest from their labours, and their works do follow them" (Revelation 14:13).
(b) It is rest in the fellowship of all saints—"rest with us."
(a) The Church is to be "the glory of Christ." Jesus said, "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them" (John 17:10, John 17:22). "The beauty of the Lord God shall be upon her," and "his glory shall be seen upon her" (Psalms 90:17); Isaiah 60:2). The Church is addressed thus: "There shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God" (Isaiah 62:3).
(b) Christ shall be an Object of wonder to believers in that day. "To be admired in all them that believe." The wonder will spring out of the extraordinary manifestations of his glory and power.—T.C.
2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Thessalonians 1:12.—Prayer for the Thessalonians in prospect of their glorification.
His wish was that they would undergo the necessary preparatory work in anticipation of their future glorification. It was a double prayer.
I. A PRAYER THAT HIS CONVERTS MIGHT APPROVE THE REALITY OF THEIR CALLING BY THEIR FAITH AND LIVE. "Whereunto we pray always for you, brethren, that God would count you worthy of his calling."
1. The nature and intent of the calling.
(a) high (Philippians 3:14);
(b) holy (2 Timothy 1:9);
(c) heavenly (Hebrews 3:1).
(a) to fellowship with Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9);
(b) to holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7);
(c) to liberty (Galatians 5:13);
(d) to peace (Colossians 3:15);
(e) to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3);
(f) to eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12).
2. A walk worthy of such a calling. "That God would count you worthy of this calling." How can any sinful man be accounted worthy of it? He is already called, and God's counting him worthy proceeds on the supposition of that pre-existing fact. It supposes:
II. A PRAYER THAT HIS CONVERTS MIGHT FULLY REALIZE THE BLESSED PROCESS THROUGH WHICH THE APOSTLE'S OBJECT MIGHT BE SECURED. The process is twofold.
1. That God would work in them every delight in moral goodness. "Fulfil every good pleasure of goodness."
2. That God would fulfil the work of faith with power.
III. THE ULTIMATE OBJECT OF THE APOSTLE'S PRAYERS FOR THE THESSALONIANS. "That the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him."
1. The very Name of Christ is to be gloried in the saints.
(a) in their holiness of life;
(b) in their victory over the world and sin;
(c) in their steadfast loyalty to him;
(d) in their final exaltation to "his kingdom and glory."
2. The saints will be glorified in Christ.
3. The spring or source of all the blessings of the saints. "According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
(a) The purpose of the Father is of grace;
(b) the mediation of the Son is of grace;
(c) the blessings of the new covenant are all of grace.
HOMILIES BY B.C. CAFFIN
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4.—The introduction.
I. THE ADDRESS.
1. The description. St. Paul repeats the opening words of the First Epistle. He addresses the same Church; he describes it in the same sacred words. It is "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." He could say of it nothing higher, nothing holier. To be in God, in Christ, is of all positions the loftiest, of all blessings the most precious. None are so highly exalted as those who are nearest to Christ; none have such rich store of heavenly treasure as those who abide in him, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead. There is but one slight variation. In the First Epistle he said, "the Father;" here it is "our Father." The pronoun implies a close, endearing, affectionate relationship. The Church is in God our Father, in the embrace of his fatherly love, chosen by his electing grace; in the Lord Jesus Christ, saved by his precious death, living in that life which flows from Christ, which is Christ.
2. The salutation. He uses the same words as in the First Epistle; he could find no more suitable terms to express his good wishes for his converts. He could desire nothing better for them than grace, and peace; grace, the origin, the source, of every highest blessing; peace, the sweet and holy end, the very crown, of the Christian life. It is from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that these and all other blessings flow. St. Paul joins together the two Divine Persons; they could not be thus associated as the one ultimate source of grace and peace, were they not both alike Divine. Peace is the fruit of the Spirit; with the Holy Spirit whom the Lord Jesus sends unto us from the Father comes the sacred gift of peace. Grace and peace come from God the Father by the incarnation, atonement, intercession of God the Son, through the indwelling presence of God the Holy Ghost. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God flow into the Christian heart through the fellowship of the Holy Ghost. All that the Christian can desire for himself, for his friends, for the whole Church, comes from God; he seeks it of God in prayer; he knows that God will hear. "This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us."
II. THE THANKSGIVING.
1. The duty. Thanksgiving is a debt which we owe to God, a debt which we must always acknowledge, which we can never fully discharge. It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks for all things unto God. We must thank him for his grace given to ourselves; and if that grace abides in us, we shall feel ourselves bound to thank him for the working of the same grace in others. We shall regard every true conversion, every increase of grace in others, as a blessing granted to the whole Church and to ourselves. We shall feel a keen, living interest in each soul that is gathered into Christ's flock, and so share the angels' joy over one sinner that repenteth. For the welfare of each member affects the whole Church; when "one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it." Such was the feeling of St. Paul. "We are bound," he says—we owe it as a debt—"to thank God always for you." He fulfils his own precept; he gives thanks always. The thanksgiving of the faithful Christian must be continuous, never ending.
2. The ground of St. Paul's thanksgiving.
3. The expression of his thankfulness. He not only gives thanks to God; he glories before men. "We ourselves," he says—"we glory." Though his deep humility might have withheld him from glorying over a result which was due, under God, to his own zealous labours, the rapid growth of their faith and love so filled him with exuberant gladness that he could net refrain his lips. "God forbid," he says elsewhere, "that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." But he is really glorying in the cross now; he glories, not in his own achievements, but in the triumphs of the cross. It was the work of God in real truth, not his work; he knew it well. Indeed, he had laboured abundantly—that he knew, he could not help knowing it; but he gladly explains the abundance of his labours by the abundance of grace that was vouchsafed unto him. "Yet not I," he says, "but the grace of God that was with me." The faith, hope, and love of the Thessalonians proved, as he said in the First Epistle, their election. God had chosen them to be his own; his grace worked mightily in them. And now St. Paul was glorying in the faith and patience of his converts. They were in great affliction; he sympathized with them, he comforted them; but yet he rejoiced over them. Their affliction by the grace of God was turned to a blessing; it proved the steadfastness of their faith and their patience, and it strengthened them.
1. Thankfulness is the Christian's duty; thank God always. 2, Especially thank him for his grace working in his people.
3. Glory in the victories of grace, not in worldly successes.
4. Pray for continual progress in faith, love, patience.—B.C.C.
2 Thessalonians 1:5-7.—The persecutions of the Thessalonians.
I. THE MEANING OF AFFLICTION.
1. It does not mean, that God is angry with us. Job's friends thought so. So did Asaph once; but when he went into the sanctuary of God his eyes were enlightened; he understood then that God himself is the Portion of his people; that there is nothing upon earth to be desired in comparison with him; that though heart and flesh may fail, God is enough, and more than enough, for his chosen in this world, and in the world to come will receive them to glory. God's dealings with men are often misinterpreted; people use the word "judgment" carelessly and without knowledge. Affliction would be almost intolerable, if it were indeed always a proof of the Divine wrath. But, God be thanked, he himself has told us it comes in love.
2. It is a trial of our faith. Satan said, "Doth Job serve God for nought?" The world often says so now; it imputes lower motives; it refuses to believe in unselfish goodness. The man who can say in the midst of troubles, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord," is a living proof of the reality, of the sustaining power, of the presence of God; one of those miracles of grace which, thank God, are still daily wrought around us in the world. These things are among the facts registered by the observer of spiritual truths—facts as real as the facts of external nature, and of far deeper and more abiding moment.
3. It worketh patience. The trial of God's saints is more precious than that of gold which perisheth. Gold is tried by fire; God's people are tried in the furnace of affliction. Affliction, meekly borne, hath a refining power; it elevates and refines the whole character; "it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby." Faith is strengthened by trials; patience is acquired by the habit of enduring affliction. Without endurance, without suffering, there is no opportunity of developing the grace of patience.
II. THE ULTIMATE ISSUE OF PERSECUTION.
1. To the persecuted. Rest—rest with all saints; with St. Paul who had been the means of their conversion, who was then writing to comfort them. The weary and heavy laden who come to Christ, as he bids them, find in him rest for their souls even in this present life. There is an inner rest of the spirit, amid outward unrest and trouble, which is the pledged possession of the soul that hath found Christ and resteth in faith on him. "Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength;" or rather as in the margin "the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of ages." The only rest for the penitent, for the sorrowful, is on the breast of Jesus. We find rest there now; but the truest, deepest rest is yet to come in the kingdom of God. "Requiescat in pace," we say of the departed. They are found worthy of that rest in the kingdom of God who have endured affliction in faith and patience. God is pleased, in his gracious condescension, to call them worthy. "They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." That worthiness is of God; it is his gift; he makes them worthy by his grace. He called them not because they were worthy, says St. Augustine; rather by his choice he makes them worthy. It is not their merit but his election, not their goodness but his grace, that makes them what they are. They have not chosen him, but he hath chosen them that they should bring forth much fruit. They are not wise, or strong, or holy; but Christ their Lord is all. He is present with them, abiding in them by his Spirit, purging away their sins, c