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Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, [1831], at

2 Thessalonians Chapter 1

The salutation of St. Paul and his companions, Th2 1:1, Th2 1:2. The apostle gives thanks to God for their faith, love, and union; and for their patience under persecutions, Th2 1:3, Th2 1:4. Speaks of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the punishment of the ungodly, and the glorification of the righteous, Th2 1:5-10. Prays that God may count them worthy of their calling, that the name of Jesus may be glorified in them, Th2 1:11, Th2 1:12.

2 Thessalonians 1:1

th2 1:1

Paul, and Silvanus, etc. - See the notes on Th1 1:1. This epistle was written a short time after the former: and as Silas and Timothy were still at Corinth, the apostle joins their names with his own, as in the former case.

2 Thessalonians 1:3

th2 1:3

Your faith groweth exceedingly - The word ὑπεραυξανει signifies to grow luxuriantly, as a good and healthy tree planted in a good soil; and if a fruit tree, bearing an abundance of fruit to compensate the labor of the husbandman. Faith is one of the seeds of the kingdom; this the apostle had sowed and watered, and God gave an abundant increase. Their faith was multiplied, and their love abounded; and this was not the case with some distinguished characters only, it was the case with every one of them.

2 Thessalonians 1:4

th2 1:4

We ourselves glory in you in the Churches of God - We hold you up as an example of what the grace of God, can produce when communicated to honest and faithful hearts.

For your patience and faith - From Act 17:5, Act 17:13, and from Th1 2:14, we learn, that the people of Thessalonica had suffered much persecution, both from the Jews and their own countrymen; but being thoroughly convinced of the truth of the Gospel, and feeling it to be the power of God unto salvation, no persecution could turn them aside from it. And having suffered for the truth, it was precious to them. Persecution never essentially injured the genuine Church of God.

2 Thessalonians 1:5

th2 1:5

A manifest token of the righteousness judgement of God - The persecutions and tribulations which you endure, are a manifest proof that God has judged righteously in calling you Gentiles into his Church; and these sufferings are also a proof that ye are called in; for they who enter into the kingdom of God go through great tribulation; your going through that tribulation is a proof that ye are entering in, and God sees it right and just that ye should be permitted to suffer before ye enjoy that endless felicity.

The words, however, may be understood in another sense, and will form this maxim: "The sufferings of the just, and the triumphs of the wicked, in this life, are a sure proof that there will be a future judgment, in which the wicked shall be punished and the righteous rewarded. "This maxim is not only true in itself, but it is most likely that this is the apostle's meaning.

That ye may be counted worthy - Your patient endurance of these sufferings is a proof that ye are rendered meet for that glory on account of which ye suffer and, in a true Gospel sense of the word, worthy of that glory; for he who is a child of God, and a partaker of the Divine nature, is worthy of God's kingdom, not because he has done any thing to merit it, but because he bears the image of God; and the image is that which gives the title.

2 Thessalonians 1:6

th2 1:6

Seeing it is a righteous thing - Though God neither rewards nor punishes in this life in a general way, yet he often gives proofs of his displeasure, especially against those who persecute his followers. They, therefore, who have given you tribulation, shall have tribulation in recompense.

2 Thessalonians 1:7

th2 1:7

And to you who are troubled, rest with us - And while they have tribulation, you shall have that eternal rest which remains for the people of God.

When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed - But this fullness of tribulation to them, and rest to you, shall not take place till the Lord Jesus come to judge the world.

With his mighty angels - The coming of God to judge the world is scarcely ever spoken of in the sacred writings without mentioning the holy angels, who are to accompany him, and to form his court or retinue. See Deu 33:2; Mat 25:31; Mat 16:27; Mat 26:64; Mar 8:38.

2 Thessalonians 1:8

th2 1:8

In flaming fire - Εν φλογι πυρος· In thunder and lightning, taking vengeance - inflicting just punishment on them that know not God - the heathen who do not worship the true God, and will not acknowledge him, but worship idols; and on them that obey not the Gospel - the Jews, particularly who have rejected the Gospel, and persecuted Christ and his messengers; and all nominal Christians who, though they believe the Gospel as a revelation from God, yet do not obey it as a rule of life.

2 Thessalonians 1:9

th2 1:9

Who shall be punished - What this everlasting destruction consists in we cannot tell. It is not annihilation, for their being continues; and as the destruction is everlasting, it is an eternal continuance and presence of substantial evil, and absence of all good; for a part of this punishment consists in being banished from the presence of the Lord - excluded from his approbation, for ever; so that the light of his countenance can be no more enjoyed, as there will be an eternal impossibility of ever being reconciled to him.

The glory of his power - Never to see the face of God throughout eternity is a heart-rending, soul-appalling thought; and to be banished from the glory of his power, that power the glory of which is peculiarly manifested in saving the lost and glorifying the faithful, is what cannot be reflected on without confusion and dismay. But this must be the lot of all who acknowledge not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:10

th2 1:10

When he shall come to be glorified in his saints - As the grace of God is peculiarly glorified in saving sinners and making them into saints, this gracious power will be particularly manifested in the great day, when countless millions will appear before that throne who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

And to be admired - Οαυμασθηναι· To be wondered at among and on the account of all them that believe. Much as true believers admire the perfections of the Redeemer of mankind, and much as they wonder at his amazing condescension in becoming man, and dying for the sins of the world; all their present amazement and wonder will be as nothing when compared with what they shall feel when they come to see him in all his glory, the glory that he had with the father before the world was. In reference to this we may apply those words of St. John: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." Jo1 3:2.

Instead of τοις πιστευουσιν, them that believe, τοις πιστευσασιν, them that have believed, is the reading of ABCDEF, many others, the later Syriac, Slavonic, Vulgate, and Itala, with most of the Greek fathers. This reading is undoubtedly genuine.

Because our testimony - was believed in that day - The members of this sentence seem to have been strangely transposed. I believe it should be read thus: "In that day, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired among all them that have believed; for our testimony was believed among you." The Thessalonians had credited what the apostles had said and written, not only concerning Jesus Christ in general, but concerning the day of judgment in particular.

2 Thessalonians 1:11

th2 1:11

We pray - that our God would count you worthy - It is our earnest prayer that God would make you worthy, αξιωσῃ, afford those continual supplies of grace by his Holy Spirit, without which you cannot adorn your holy vocation; you are called into the Christian Church, and, to be proper members of this Church, you must be members of the mystical body of Christ; and this implies that you should be holy, as he who has called you is holy.

Fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness -

1. The goodness of God - his own innate eternal kindness, has led him to call you into this state of salvation.

2. It is the pleasure of that goodness to save you unto eternal life.

3. It is the good pleasure; nothing can please God more than your receiving and retaining his utmost salvation.

4. It is all the good pleasure of his goodness thus to save you; this he has amply proved by sending his Son to die for you, beyond which gift he has none greater. In this, all the good pleasure of his goodness is astonishingly manifested.

5. And if you be faithful to his grace, he will fulfill - completely accomplish, all the good pleasure of his goodness in you; which goodness is to be apprehended and is to work by faith, the power of which must come from him, though the act or exercise of that power must be of yourselves; but the very power to believe affords excitement to the exercise of faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:12

th2 1:12

That the name of our Lord - This is the great end of your Christian calling, that Jesus who hath died for you may have his passion and death magnified in your life and happiness; that ye may show forth the virtues of him who called you from darkness into his marvellous light.

And ye in him - That his glorious excellence may be seen upon you; that ye may be adorned with the graces of his Spirit, as he is glorified by your salvation from all sin.

According to the grace - That your salvation may be such as God requires, and such as is worthy of his grace to communicate. God saves as becomes God to save; and thus the dignity of his nature is seen in the excellence and glory of his work.

1. It is an awful consideration to the people of the world, that persecutions and afflictions should be the lot of the true Church, and should be the proof of its being such; because this shows more than any thing else the desperate state of mankind, their total enmity to God; they persecute, not because the followers of God have done or can do them hurt, but they persecute because they have not the Spirit of Christ in them! Men may amuse themselves by arguing against the doctrine of original sin, or the total depravity of the soul of man; but while there is religious persecution in the world, there is the most absolute disproof of all their arguments. Nothing but a heart wholly alienated from God could ever devise the persecution or maltreatment of a man, for no other cause but that he has given himself up to glorify God with his body and spirit, which are his.

2. The everlasting destruction of the ungodly is a subject that should be continually placed before the eyes of men by the preachers of the Gospel. How shall a man be induced to take measures to escape a danger of the existence of which he is not convinced? Show him the hell which the justice of God has lighted up for the devil and his angels, and in which all Satan's children and followers must have their eternal portion. All the perfections of God require that he should render to every man his due. And what is the due of a sinner or a persecutor, of one who is a determinate enemy to God, goodness, and good men? Why, everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. And if God did not award this to such persons, he could not be the God of justice.

3. The grand object of God in giving his Gospel to mankind is to save them from their sins, make them like himself, and take them to his eternal glory. He saves according to the measure of his eternal goodness; the scanty salvation contended for and expected by the generality of Christians, it would be dishonorable to God to administer. He saves according to his grace. His own eternal goodness and holiness is the measure of his salvation to man; not the creeds and expectations of any class of Christians. To be saved at all, we must not only be saved in God's way, and upon his own terms, but also according to his own measure. He who is not filled with the fullness of God cannot expect the glory of God.

4. Another proof of the fall and degeneracy of men is, their general enmity to the doctrine of holiness; they cannot bear the thought of being sanctified through body, soul, and spirit, so as to perfect holiness in the fear of God. A spurious kind of Christianity is gaining ground in the world. Weakness, doubtfulness, littleness of faith, consciousness of inward corruptions, and sinful infirmities of different kinds, are by some considered the highest proofs of a gracious state; whereas in the primitive Church they would have been considered as evidences that the persons in question had received just light enough to show them their wretchedness and danger, but not the healing virtue of the blood of Christ.

Next: 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2