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© Rosemary Bardsley 2023

It is believed that Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian believers was written not very long after the first letter, that is, some time during AD50 or 51.

Like the first, it is sent by Paul, Silas and Timothy. The greeting is similar, with the addition of the source of ‘grace and peace’ – ‘from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’.
Also like the first, it contains Paul’s praise and prayers concerning the Thessalonians, it contains teaching about the second coming of Christ, and it contains instructions regarding idleness and work.



Paul is still thanking God for the believers in Thessalonica, in much the same way as in the first letter.

Read 1:3 & 4 and answer these questions:
Whom does he thank for them?

What was growing more and more?

What was increasing?

What did he boast about among God’s churches?


What do you understand by the word ‘perseverance’?


What made this particularly remarkable?


As in the first letter Paul thanks God for their growing faith and love that persevered even in the context of extended persecution and trials.

How do these verses encourage perseverance in the midst of opposition and persecution?
Matthew 5:11 – 12


John 15:18 – 21


Romans 8:31 – 35


2Corinthians 4:7 – 12, 16 – 18


Hebrews 12:1 – 3


1Peter 1:3 – 9


A.1 God knows what he is doing
In 1Thessalonians 1:5 Paul says ‘all of this...’, referring to the on-going growth of their love and their faith, and their perseverance and faith in the midst of persecution and trials – all of this ‘is evidence’ of the righteous judgement of God. It is difficult to be sure exactly what Paul is talking about here, and we cannot understand Paul to be attributing any merit to the Thessalonians. Perhaps Paul means something like this: that the on-going growth of their love and faith in the context of persecution validates the integrity of their God-given faith. It is their God-given faith that has brought them into his kingdom; the fact that they are now suffering because of that kingdom, and not giving in and giving up, validates God’s judgement, God’s sovereign action, in putting this faith in them. Because this faith endures. If it were not God-given, it would not endure the suffering.

We see something of this in the story of Job. Satan was convinced that Job’s faith was fake, a mere manipulative and insincere thing aimed at keeping God’s blessings, rather than a sincere, genuine faith focused on God himself. But God himself had no doubts about Job’s faith. With absolute confidence that Job’s faith would hold fast, God gave Satan permission to harm Job. He knew that Job’s faith would hold, because he himself had given Job that faith (see Job 1 & 2).

We see something of this also in Hebrews 12 where the writer assures his readers that the fact that they are suffering is proof/evidence that they are indeed God’s children. In sovereign power God uses their suffering (which their enemies intended for their destruction) for their good and for their growth and development as his well-loved children.

The endurance of the Thessalonian believers is vindication and evidence of their God-given faith, and evidence that they are indeed members of the kingdom of God.



Having mentioned the persecutions and trials the Thessalonian believers are enduring, Paul’s thoughts turn to the judgement that awaits those who mistreat God’s people. Although some divine retribution may occur in this present life, Paul’s focus in verses 6 to 10 is on the judgement that occurs at the last day when the Lord Jesus returns.

Paul makes a number of statements:

B.1 God is just
The justice of God is one of the recurring themes of the Bible. We could go so far as to say that the Bible has a strong focus on God’s justice. The cross, which we usually think of in terms of God’s grace, is equally about God’s justice.

Study these verses. What do you learn about God’s justice?
Genesis 18:23 – 25

Deuteronomy 32:4

Romans 3:21 – 26

B.2 God will pay back
In Romans 12:17 – 19 Paul instructs us not to take revenge because revenge is God’s role, not ours: ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil ... Do not take revenge ...but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is my to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.’

Here in 2Thessalonians 1:5 Paul assures the Thessalonians, and us, that God will ‘pay back trouble to those who trouble you’. Paul said a similar thing in 1Thessalonians 2:14 – 16, concluding with ‘They heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.’

God sees and God knows what people are doing to those who believe in him. None of it goes unnoticed by him, and none of it is forgotten by him. And he cares. How much he cares is evident in the full extent of his wrath that falls.

B.3 When will this happen?
In Section D of Study Three we looked at a few verses from Revelation that speak about this outpouring of God’s wrath on those who abused his people, and it is this future wrath that Paul is speaking of in 2Thessalonians 1:6ff. Paul says here that this justice of God, this divine pay-back for all that has been done to those who are his, will occur at the return of Jesus Christ.

Read verses 6 to 10. What does Paul say about:
When this divine payback will happen?
Verse 6:

Verse 10:

Who it will happen to?
Verse 6:

Verse 8:

Verse 8:

What form will the punishment take?
Verse 6:

Verse 9:

Paul’s teaching here parallels what we read previously in Study 3 in these references from Revelation:

Revelation 6:9 – 11: Here, in symbolic imagery, the souls of those who have been killed for their faith call out to God ‘How long until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ They are not rebuked for what on the surface seems to be a very unforgiving attitude. Rather, their cry for justice is acknowledged by God in his answer that they have to wait a little longer, until the full number of Christian martyrs is complete. It was not their desire for justice that was wrong, only their timing.

Revelation 16:5 – 7: Here an angel affirms the justice of God in pouring out his wrath on the earth, because those on whom it falls are those who ‘shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’ And the altar responded by affirming the justice of God.

Revelation 18:20, 24: Here we read about the fall and destruction of the symbolic ‘Babylon’: We read the exultant command: ‘Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.’ And then we read about this symbolic city ‘In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.’

Revelation 19:1 – 4: Here a great multitude in heaven is shouting out in praise of God’s justice ‘true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’

In these verses from Revelation we see what Paul is talking about when he says ‘He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you’ – verse 6. While the New Testament repeatedly commands us to forgive, to not pay back, because that is appropriate for those who have been forgiven, God himself is not so subject to those commands. For God it would be inappropriate for him to not pay back, to not implement his justice. He is the Judge of all the earth. He is the God of justice. To act with justice is to be faithful to himself. He cannot not be just.



But 2Thessalonians 1:6 – 10 is not only about God’s justice on those who persecute his people. We also learn here something of what will happen to believers when Christ returns, and something about Jesus Christ as he appears on that day.

C.1 About believers
Read these verses. What does Paul say will happen to believers when Christ returns?
Verse 7:

Verse 10:

Verse 10:

C.2 About the Lord Jesus Christ
Read these verses. What do you learn about the Lord Jesus?
Verse 7:

Verse 9:

Verse 10:

Although we might like to be free from troubles now, Paul tells us that believers will be given relief from their troubles on that day. But that is the least thing that happens. It is eclipsed by something far greater: on that day Jesus Christ will be glorified in his holy people – in believers, in us. And on that day all those who believe will marvel at him. Our own release from trouble will be insignificant when we see him in all his glory.

Because Jesus Christ is glorious. Paul says that he will be ‘revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels’ – verse 7; in verse 9 Paul speaks of ‘the majesty of his power’. So glorious is he, so powerful, so complete his justice and his implementation of God’s wrath, that even believers, even those who already know him now, will be amazed at his appearing.

As John says in his first letter: ‘we will see him as he is’ (3:2) – not veiled in human flesh as he was in Judea, but clothed with glory, majesty and power. More that we can now imagine.



So Paul says, ‘with all of this in mind’ he constantly prays for them.

Read verses 11 and 12.
What does Paul pray for the Thessalonians?


Why does he pray these things?


Paul wants the Thessalonians to live lives that are worthy of those whom God calls his holy people. He wants them to be empowered and enabled by God to do all the good that their faith prompts them to do. And he wants both of these because, above all, he wants the name of the Lord Jesus to be glorified in and by them. If that happens, they too will be glorious.

What have you learned from 2Thessalaonians 1?