2 Thessalonians

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2 Thessalonians 2 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

2 That ye 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.

(2:2-9) "The day of Christ is at hand."
If Paul wrote this letter (and many scholars think he didn't1), then he is changing his mind about the timing of the Christ's return. The day of the Lord is no longer at hand. In fact it's nowhere near. Many things must happen first: there will be a great "falling away", a "man of sin" will be reveled, and Satan will show off his power by doing all kinds of signs and wonders.
Is the Day of the Lord at hand?
(2:2) "Be not soon shaken in mind ... by letter as from us."
What letter is being referred to here? Is it 1 Thessalonians? If so, then should Christians not read it to avoid being "skaken in mind?"
On if Paul wrote this letter, see chapter 1:1.
On if Paul has changed his mind: it makes far more sense to read 1 Thess. 4:15 in light of this passage as to assume a completely artificial distinction. If Paul really had wanted to emphasise that Jesus was returning soon, he would have used a different language. See also “Did Paul Expect Christ to Return Soon?” by James Patrick Holding who has a slightly different view on this verse, but not an indefensible one.
On what letter Paul refers to, that is particularly clear: of course he isn't referring to his own letter, but referring to letters as if they were from Paul. Forgeries. Attempts to use Paul's authority as an apostle for one's own purposes.

3 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;

4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

(2:8) "The Lord shall consume [the wicked] with the spirit of his mouth."
God is the creator of all things and their judge. Does the author of the SAB believe there are sinners and sins that will not be punished? That if you commit a crime, and it is not detected during your life time, you will escape punishment? That the blood of the victims does not cry for vengeance? But the Lord of heaven heareth.

9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

(2:9) "Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."
Satan, not God, is all-powerful.
Can only God work wonders?
Satan is said to come with lying wonders. In that sense we should understand “all powers“: he comes with a great show, but that is all it is. Nonetheless he will deceive many.

10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

(2:11-12) God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.
God will cause us to believe lies so that he can damn us to hell.
Do humans have free will?
Does God lie?
Does God want some people to go to hell?
Who forces non-believers to disbelieve?
The author of the SAB has the order wrong. His order:
  1. God sends a strong delusion.
  2. They believe that delusion.
  3. God damns them to hell.
But the Biblical order, as per this chapter is:
  1. They do not believe the truth, that is God's word, see verse 12, but believed in a lie, they deluded themselves.
  2. They have pleasure in unrighteousness, verse 12.
  3. As punishment, already in this life, God sends them a strong delusion, this verse.
  4. After this life, God will judge their deeds righteously and punish fairly.

12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." (2:13)
God selects those who are to be saved (or damned) "from the beginning." It therefore makes no difference how good, kind, honest, or loving we may be; if God hasn't chosen us, we will be damned.
Do humans have free will?
What the Bible says about determinism and free will
As we saw in verse 11, some deliberately chose to believe a lie. What about those that believe? Did they deliberately choose the truth, and are therefore saved? Does man still have a will able to choose between good and evil? The apostle rejects that notion. Mankind has lost such ability. Our will is born in sin as well. How come then that some believe? That is by the free will of God the apostle explains. And as we see in verse 14, everywhere God sends his gospel, he calls people to him. If we hear the gospel, God has chosen our country, our city, our church, us, to hear that call. It is true that for that call to become effective, we must be born again. Our ears are closed by nature. But the fact that we hear the gospel is good news: we hear about a God who can give a new heart.
On the specific questions: humans do no longer have a truly free will, see Acts 13:48.
On determinism, see Rom. 9:11.

14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

16 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,

17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.