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they might “be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you,” he added, “who also will do it."
The instruction that Paul sent the Thessalonians in his first epistle regarding the second coming of Christ, was in perfect harmony with his former teaching. Yet his words were misapprehended by some of the Thessalonian brethren. They understood him to express the hope that he himself would live to witness the Saviour's advent. This belief served to increase their enthusiasm and excitement. Those who had previously neglected their responsibilities and duties, now became more persistent in urging their erroneous views.
In his second letter, Paul sought to correct their misunderstanding of his teaching, and to set before them his true position. He again expressed his confidence in their integrity, and his gratitude that their faith was strong, and that their love abounded for one another, and for the cause of their Master. He told them that he presented them to other churches as an example of the patient, persevering faith that bravely withstands persecution and tribulation; and he carried their minds forward to the time of the second coming of Christ, when the people of God shall rest from all their cares and perplexities.
“We ourselves,” he wrote, “glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: ... and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power. ... Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
But before the coming of Christ, important developments in the religious world, foretold in prophecy, were to take place. The apostle declared: “Be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."
Paul's words were not to be misinterpreted. It was .not to be taught that he, by special revelation, had warned the Thessalonians of the immediate coming of Christ. Such a position would cause confusion of faith; for disappointment often leads to unbelief. The apostle therefore cautioned the brethren to receive no such message as coming from him ; and he proceeded to emphasize the fact that the papal power, so clearly described by the prophet Daniel, was yet to rise, and wage war against God's people. Until this power should have performed its deadly and blasphemous work, it would be in vain for the church to look for the coming of their Lord. “Remember ye not,” Paul inquired, “that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”
Terrible were the trials that were to beset the true church. Even at the time when the apostle was writing, the “mystery of iniquity” had already begun to work. The developments that were to take place in the future were to be "after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.”
Especially solemn is the apostle's statement regarding those who should refuse to receive the love of the truth.” “For this cause," he declared of all who should deliberately reject the messages of truth, “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the trutlı, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Men cannot with impunity reject the warnings that God in mercy sends them. From those who persist in turning from these warnings, God withdraws His Spirit, leaving them to the deceptions that they love.
Thus Paul outlined the baleful work of that power of evil which was to continue through long centuries of darkness and perseeution, before the second coming of Christ. The Thessalonian believers had
hoped for immediate deliverance; now they were admonished to take up bravely and in the fear of God the work before them. The apostle charged them not to neglect their duties or resign themselves to idle waiting. After their glowing anticipations of immediate deliverance, the round of daily life and the opposition that they must meet would appear doubly forbidding. He therefore exhorted them to steadfastness in the faith:
“Stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” “The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.”
The work of the believers had been given them by God. By their faithful adherence to the truth they were to give to others the light which they had received. The apostle bade them not to become weary in well-doing, and pointed them to his own example of diligence in temporal matters while laboring with untiring zeal in the cause of Christ. He reproved those who had given themselves up to sloth and aimless excitement, and directed that “with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” He also enjoined upon the church to separate from their
fellowship any one who should persist in disregarding the instruction given by God's ministers. “Yet," he added, “count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."
This epistle also Paul concluded with a prayer, that amidst life's toils and trials the peace of God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ might be their consolation and support.