The Eschatological Background of 2 Thessalonians

Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This lesson is part of a series of lessons on 2 Thessalonians. In this lesson I’m going to look at the eschatological background of 2 Thessalonians.

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Thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. This lesson is part of a series of lessons on the book of 2 Thessalonians. In this lesson I’m going to talk about the eschatological background of 2 Thessalonians.

Paul wrote the book of 2 Thessalonians because the church at Thessalonica had received a message, supposedly from Paul, saying that the Day of the Lord had already come. That was not true. Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians to correct that. 

That was not the first time Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica about the Day of the Lord. Nor was it the first time the Bible addressed the end times. In order to understand what Paul wrote about the future in 2 Thessalonians, it’s helpful to understand, broadly, what the whole Bible says about the end time.

As you know, the Old Testament tells us about events that took place between 4000 BC and 400 BC. Abraham lived roughly 2000 BC, and a subset of his descendants became the Israelites. Moses lived roughly 1500 BC and led the Israelites out of slavery and out of Egypt. David lived roughly 1000 BC and established the Israelite kingdom.

The Israelites were very sinful. By 500 BC the Israelite nation had been conquered and exiled. The Jews were scattered all over the Middle East. Daniel lived around that time and was given several prophecies, one of which is called Daniel’s 70 Weeks. That is a bit of a misnomer. It should be called Daniel’s 70 Groups of Seven.

Daniel chapter 9 tells us Daniel had been praying; and then Gabriel appeared to Daniel and gave him the following message. Be aware that any time you see the word week, the word that was used in the original language is the word shavua, which is the word for seven. 

Dan. 9:24   “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

This is a little bit cryptic, but essentially what we have here is there was going to be a decree to rebuild Jerusalem. After that decree, there was going to be 7 groups of seven and 62 groups of seven, and then the Messiah would come. 7 plus 62 is 69, so that’s 69 groups of seven. 69 times seven is 483. Shortly after 500 BC there was a decree to rebuild Jerusalem. 483 years after that is the first century AD, which is the time of Jesus, the Messiah. 

Verse 26 tells us the Messiah was going to be cut off after the 69th group of seven. Furthermore, the prince who was to come would destroy the city and the sanctuary. In other words, there was a break between the 69th group of seven and the 70th group of seven. 

The end of this prophecy describes the 70th group of seven, which is often known as the tribulation period. The prince who is to come will make a firm covenant with many for one group of seven. In the middle of the group of seven he will put a stop to sacrifices and grain offerings, and bring destruction. 

Daniel’s 70 groups of seven is an overarching outline of history. It started with a decree to restore Jerusalem which happened roughly 500 BC. Next, the Messiah would come, which happened roughly 0 AD. Then the Messiah would be cut off which refers to Jesus going back to heaven, meaning the Israelite King is not here on Earth. Jerusalem was once again destroyed. Right now we are in the age of the church or the age of the Gentiles, which is the gap between the 69th group of seven and the 70th group of seven. At some point in the future will be the 70th group of seven which we call the tribulation period.

When Jesus was here on Earth, as part of His ministry, one time He gave a teaching to His disciples which is called the Olivet Discourse. This is recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

What prompted this discourse is that Jesus had told His disciples that the temple was going to be destroyed, some prophets were going to be killed, and Jerusalem would be made desolate. Daniel had predicted all that. The disciples asked when this was going to happen. Jesus spoke the Olivet Discourse to give some answers to that.

Jesus talked a little bit about what was going to happen to the disciples after He went back to heaven and some of the persecution they would face. He mentioned the fact that Jerusalem would be destroyed, something that happened in 70 AD. He also talked about the tribulation period. He even made reference to the abomination of desolation that had been mentioned by Daniel. Jesus talked about how, after the tribulation period, after Daniel’s 70th group of seven, the Son of Man would appear in the sky and gather the elect from all over the Earth.

Again, if you want to read more, you can read His discourse in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. 

After Jesus went back to heaven, the apostles started fulfilling the Great Commission. We read about that in the book of Acts. In the book of Acts we also read about the ministry of Paul. Paul started a church in Thessalonica and then he wrote a letter to that church called 1 Thessalonians.

Paul wrote about various things in that letter. One of the things he addressed is what’s going to happen in the future. Let’s start reading at 1 Thessalonians four verse 13. 

1Th. 4:13   But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1Th. 5:1   Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 

That’s what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about future events in the book of 1 Thessalonians. Basically, he wrote this to give them assurance about their fellow believers who had already died. He assured them that they would participate in the future glory of being with Jesus.

That brings us to 2 Thessalonians. As I said earlier, Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians because the church in Thessalonica had received a message, supposedly from Paul, saying that the day of the Lord had already come. He wrote to reassure them that was not true. Let’s read that passage.

2Th. 2:1   Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

We see in 2 Thessalonians a reference to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the man of lawlessness. Both of those ideas were mentioned in portions of Scripture that had been written previous to 2 Thessalonians. In 1 Thessalonians Paul wrote specifically about the coming of the Lord Jesus. Jesus talked about both of these ideas in His Olivet Discourse. Daniel prophesied about the prince who is to come, which is the same thing as the man of lawlessness.

If we want to grasp completely what Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians, it’s very helpful to understand what the Bible has to say about future events in other passages of Scripture, particularly in Daniel, the Olivet Discourse, and 1 Thessalonians.

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