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THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 2

Verse 2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind. The word here used signifies, properly, to be moved as a wave of the sea, or to be tossed upon the waves, as a vessel is. Then it means to be shaken in any way. See Mt 11:7; 24:29; Lu 6:38; Ac 4:31; Heb 12:26.

The reference here is to the agitation or alarm felt from the belief that the day of judgment would soon occur. It is uniformly said in the Scriptures, that the approach of the Lord Jesus to judge the world, will produce a great consternation and alarm. Mt 24:30, "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn." Re 1:7, "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." Lu 23:30, "Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us." Comp. Isa 2:21,22. Of the truth of this, there can be no doubt. We may imagine something of the effects which will be produced by the alarm caused in a community when a belief prevails that the day of judgment is near. In a single year (1843) seventeen persons were admitted to the Lunatic Asylum in Worcester, Mass., who had become deranged in consequence of the expectation that the Lord Jesus was about to appear. It is easy to account for such facts; and no doubt, when the Lord Jesus shall actually come, the effect on the guilty world will be overwhelming. The apostle here says, also, that those who were Christians were "shaken in mind and troubled" by this anticipation. There are, doubtless, many true Christians who would be alarmed at such an event, as there are many who, like Hezekiah, Isa 38:1,2, are alarmed at the prospect of death. Many real Christians might, on the sudden occurrence of such an event, feel that they were not prepared, and be alarmed at the prospect of passing through the great trial which is to determine their everlasting destiny. It is no certain evidence of a want of piety to be alarmed at the approach of death. Our nature dreads death, and though there may be a well-founded hope of heaven, it will not always preserve a delicate physical frame from trembling when it comes.

Or be troubled. That is, disturbed, or terrified. It would seem that this belief had produced much consternation among them.

Neither by spirit. By any pretended spirit of prophecy. But whether this refers to the predictions of those who were false prophets in Thessalonica, or to something which it was alleged the apostle Paul had himself said there, and which was construed as meaning that the time was near, is not certain. This depends much on the question whether the phrase "as from us," refers only to the letters which had been sent to them, or also to the "word" and to the "spirit" here spoken of. See Oldshansen on the place. It would seem, from the connection, that all their consternation had been caused by some misconstruction which had been put on the sentiments of Paul himself, for if there had been any other source of alarm, he would naturally have referred to it. It is probable, therefore, that allusion is made to some representation which had been given of what he had said under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and that the expectation that the end of the world was near, was supposed to be a doctrine of inspiration. Whether, however, the Thessalonians themselves put this construction on what he said, or whether those who had caused the alarm represented him as teaching this, cannot be determined.

Nor by word. That is, by public instruction, or in preaching. It is evident that when the apostle was among them, this subject, from some cause, was prominent in his discourses. 2 Th 2:5. It had been inferred, it seems, from what he said, that he meant to teach that the end of the world was near.

Nor by letter. Either the one which he had before written to them—the First Epistle to the Thessalonians—or one which had been forged in his name.

As from us. That is, Paul, Silas, and Timothy, who are united in writing the two epistles, 1 Th 1:1; 2 Th 1:1, and in whose names a letter would be forged, if one of this description were sent to them. It has been made a question, whether the apostle refers here to the former epistle which he had sent to them, or to a forged letter; and on this question critics have been about equally divided. The reasons for the former opinion may be seen in Paley's Horae Paulinae, in loc. The question is not very important, and perhaps cannot be easily settled. There are two or three circumstances, however, which seem to make it probable that he refers to an epistle which had been forged, and which had been pretended to be received from him.

(1.) One is found in the expression "as from us." If he had referred to his own former letter, it seems to me that the allusion would have been more distinct, and that the particle "as" (wv) would not have been used. This is such an expression as would have been employed if the reference were to such a forged letter.

(2.) A second circumstance is found in the expression in the next verse, "Let no man deceive you by any means," which looks as if they were not led into this belief by their own interpretation of his former epistle, but by a deliberate attempt of some one to delude them on the subject.

(3.) Perhaps a third circumstance would be found in the fact that it was not uncommon in the early times of Christianity to attempt to impose forged writings on the churches. Nothing would be more natural for an impostor who wished to acquire influence, than to do this; and that it was often done is well known. That epistles were forged under the names of the apostles, appears very probable, as Benson has remarked, from ch. iii. 17; Gal. 6:11; and Philemon 19. There are, indeed, none of those forged epistles extant which were composed in the time of the apostles, but there is extant an epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, besides the two which we have; another to the Laodiceans; and six of Paul's epistles to Seneca—all of which are undoubted forgeries. See Benson in loc. If Paul, however, here refers to his former epistle, the reference is doubtless to 1 Th 4:15; 5:2-4, which might easily be understood as teaching that the end of the world was near, and to which those who maintained that opinion might appeal with great plausibility. We have, however, the authority of the apostle himself that he meant to teach no such thing.

As that the day of Christ is at hand. The time when he would appear—called "the day of Christ," because it would be appointed especially for the manifestation of his glory. The phrase "at hand" means near. Grotius supposes that it denotes that same year, and refers for proof to Ro 8:38; 1 Co 3:22; Ga 1:4; Heb 9:9.

If so, the attempt to fix the day was an early indication of the desire to determine the very time of his appearing—a disposition which has been so common since, and which has led into so many sad mistakes.

{a} "that" Mt 24:4-6

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