Introducing the New Testament, 2nd Edition

A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey


21. 2 Thessalonians

Video Introduction


This chapter offers a brief overview of the contents of 2 Thessalonians, followed by discussion of historical background and major themes.

In terms of historical background, 2 Thessalonians is presented as a letter from the apostle Paul written to address a rumor of the Thessalonian church that “the day of the Lord” had already come. Two different historical scenarios may be imagined as a background for this letter: If it is an authentic letter of Paul, then it was probably sent soon after 1 Thessalonians. If it is pseudepigraphical, it may have been written decades later to present a more precise apocalyptic timetable for the parousia than had been developed in Paul’s lifetime.

Paul assures the Thessalonians that those who cause them suffering will be punished in the final judgment. But Paul squelches the rumor that “the day of the Lord is already here” by explaining that a “lawless one” who is currently being restrained must first be revealed before a series of apocalyptic events culminating in the parousia and judgment can take place. Finally, Paul offers the Thessalonians practical advice on a problem within the community: he tells them that busybodies who will not work for a living should not be allowed to take advantage of the community’s hospitality.

Study Questions

  1. Summarize two possible scenarios for the historical circumstances in which 2 Thessalonians might have been composed.

  2. Outline the apocalyptic events that, according to 2 Thessalonians, will occur at the end of time. Include reference to the restrainer and the lawless one. What points of contact does this teaching have with other New Testament writings?

  3. Compare the teaching of 2 Thessalonians regarding “idleness” with that of the Didache (a nonbiblical Christian writing from the late first century). What do these writings reveal about a common problem in the early church?

Explore Readings

These readings provide a chance for you to explore the New Testament in more depth. The boxes from the text are included here, as well as bibliographies and outlines for the books of the New Testament.

All the Explore readings can also be downloaded as PDFs here.