This second letter (3 chapters, 47 verses, and 1,022 words) was evidently written not too long after 1 Thessalonians.
In this second letter, Paul writes to correct the false teaching that the Body of Christ will go through the day of the Lord. He also corrects the disorderly conduct which was the result of believing that false doctrine (1 Cor 15:33). Some had quit working because they thought the world was about to end.
I. Encouragement (1)
Il. Enlightenment (2)
Ill. Exhortation (3)
The day of the Lord is when the Lord will pour out His wrath on the world (Isa 2:1-12, 17-21; 13:6-13). It is the Second Coming of Christ in particular, but it includes what leads up to it (the tribulation period) and what follows it (the kingdom age). The false teachers troubled the church at Thessalonica by telling them that their affliction was proof that the day of the Lord was at hand, which would mean that they were in the tribulation period. They even presented them with a counterfeit letter from Paul that supported their teaching (2 Thess 2:1-2; 3:17).
Paul very plainly states that the Body of Christ is not appointed to wrath but salvation from it (Rom 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9). The whole seven-year tribulation period will come as a result of God’s wrath, not just the last part as some teachers claim. The whole tribulation period is the subject of prophecy (Dan 9:24-27). Therefore, we know that the Body of Christ will be taken off the earth before that period ever begins because we have nothing to do with either the wrath of God or the prophetic program of Israel. Many Christians are troubled today because they are being taught that we will not be raptured before the tribulation period. Christians must deal with tribulation in this present evil world (1 Thess 3:3-4), but we are not going through the prophesied tribulation period which is called the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7).
The church at Thessalonica was being troubled from without (persecution) and within (false teachers among them). In the first chapter, Paul encouraged them by thanking God for their patience and faith in the midst of the tribulations they were enduring and by explaining that God will recompense tribulation to their enemies in the coming day of the Lord.
In the second chapter, Paul clears up their confusion that was caused by the false teaching that the Second Coming of Christ was at hand. The church at Thessalonica lost their blessed hope (cf. 1 Thess 1:3; 2 Thess 1:3) because they listened to teachers who were saying things that did not line up with Paul’s teaching (2 Tim 2:7). False doctrine troubles the hearts and minds of God’s people, but sound doctrine produces a sound mind (2 Thess 2:16-17; 2 Tim 1:7).
A basic overview of the correct order of events in the tribulation period:
Beginning = A falling away first (v.3) – Israel makes a covenant with the Antichrist
Middle = The man of sin is revealed (v.3-8a)
End = The coming of the Lord to destroy him (v.8)
It is crucial to understand that the “day of Christ” (2 Thess 2:2) is not referring to our rapture but to the day of the Lord. Those who teach that we are going through the tribulation claim that in this passage Paul is teaching the rapture will not occur until after the man of sin is revealed (v.3). If the “day of Christ” referred to here is our blessed hope, why would the Thessalonians be shaken in mind and troubled for believing it was at hand? Paul uses phrases like “day of Christ” and “day of the Lord Jesus” in reference to the rapture and judgment seat of Christ. However, here he is clearly referring to the day of the Lord which comes AFTER this age because that is what he is talking about in the context. Christ is the Lord and so the “day of Christ” can certainly be referring to the “day of the Lord.” Context determines how it is being used. That the “day of Christ” and the “day of the Lord” can be used interchangeably is another proof for the deity of Christ.
Even though we are not the subject of prophecy, we need to learn the whole Bible (Rom 16:25-26). We learn by comparison and contrast. Understanding the tribulation period should make us thankful that we will be delivered from it. The root reason for all the confusion that abounds today about the tribulation period and the Second Coming is a failure to rightly divide mystery truth from prophetic truth.
We are living in a parenthetical mystery age that interrupted the prophetic program concerning Israel and the kingdom. Therefore, prophecy concerning Israel is not being fulfilled today and will not be until after this age closes with the rapture of the Church. Most teachers do not recognize Paul’s authority as the spokesman for this age and so they mix the word of truth instead of rightly dividing it. Paul deals with prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2, but his point is not that we should be looking for these things, but rather that we should not. We are to be looking for the blessed hope of being gathered together to meet Christ in the air, not for signs and the antichrist (1 Thess 1:10; Phil 3:20; Titus 2:13).