Second Thessalonians: The Disastrous Effects of Misunderstanding the Second Coming by Peter Kreeft

Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Thessalonians is the 2nd stage of the story of his trying to teach the Thessalonians the real implications of the doctrine of the 2nd Coming.

The Thessalonians had misunderstood Paul’s teaching in 2 ways:

  1. They seem to have thought they knew how soon Christ would come, even though Christ Himself did not (Mt 24:36) and even though Paul too had told them that the Lord would not come when expected but “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:2).
  2. Some had given up their jobs and were just waiting around until the end even though Paul warned them (1 Thess 4:11-12).

The mistake Paul corrects in 1st Thessalonians is essentially the same mistake that is made by Modernism: ignoring, denying, or reducing to myth and symbolism in the 2nd Coming.

The mistake Paul corrects in 2nd Thessalonians is essentially the same mistake made by many modern Fundamentalists and extremist sects: a fixation and obsession with the imminence of the 2nd Coming.

Whereas Modernism tends to ignore the next life for this one & Fundamentalists tend to ignore this life for the next, Orthodoxy sees the two as mutually reinforcing, like like before birth & life after birth.

Paul uses the Old Testament term “the Day of the Lord” to refer to Christ’s 2nd Coming:

  • In the Old Testament, this is a phrase full of mystery.
  • The term “day” (yom in Hebrew) does not necessarily mean a literal 24 hour day but a period of time, perhaps a very long time. The six “days” of creation in Genesis 1, for instance, took millions of years.
  • When Paul spoke of “the day of the Lord” to the Thessalonians he meant the last times, the last era in world history.

The correct practical results of correct belief about Christ’s coming “like a thief in the night” should be to motivate  us to work for our salvation, for others’ welfare, and above all for their salvation while there is still time.

“Prepare for your finals: read your Bible”

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