The Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians
1- Thanking God for the growth of their faith (1:1 - 4)
As mentioned previously (in the May 2014 newsletter package, Part 1 of the first epistle to the Thessalonians), St. Paul's two epistles to the Thessalonians(1) are intimately interrelated. The second one clarifies some of the obscure or misunderstood statements made in the first, with respect to the Lord's second coming.
The second epistle's introduction utilizes almost the same words used in the first. In this introduction, St. Paul joins his name to those of Silvanus (Silas) and young Timothy (Acts 17:4), his co-servants of the Thessalonian Church. He asks that the grace and peace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ abound in them.
St. Paul then proceeds to write words of encouragement and support for a budding church, whose news he had received from those who served it, fully cognizant of the lurking persecution forces aiming to resist and weaken their faith, and to return them to their old lifestyle. He unceasingly and dutifully thanks God for:
+ Their growth in the faith and in their knowledge of the Lord, which proves its liveliness and effectiveness;
+ The increase in their love for each other, and in their service to one another, which proves that their faith was not superficial, rather, they practiced it in their lives - the first sign being their love for God and their neighbors; and
+ Their patience and endurance of the persecutions and hardships which surrounded them from the authorities, their fellow citizens who became their enemies, and the Jews - the latter consisting of two groups: those who resisted evangelization (Acts 17:5) and those who believed but persisted in their old habits and traditions, demanding that converted Thessalonians adopt, like the converted Jews did, the old scriptural principles.
Finally, because of their faith, love and endurance, Paul boasts of them before the other churches that he serves.
2- He encourages the Thessalonians to endure suffering and to trust Divine justice (1:5 - 12)
He comforts them, encouraging them to remain steadfast in their march, and directing them to maintain their focus on God, the Just Judge, Who will certainly reward them for their suffering - because of their faith in Him - with eternal rest in the kingdom of heaven, "... when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, ... when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints ..." (1:7,10) At the same time God, in His justice, will award eternal perdition "... in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, ..." (1:8), to those who disobeyed the Gospel of salvation, then harassed and persecuted believers.
Paul continues, saying that the Lord's coming and His just ruling, will prove the truthfulness of Paul's testimony, and the amazing work of God among them; hence, "Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (1:11 & 12)
1- The Lord's second coming (2:1 - 12)
Here, Paul comes to the main objective of the second epistle, which he had sent shortly after the first, namely, clarifications and signs preceding the Lord's coming, so that they should not fall prey to trickery by any means: neither spiritual, nor verbal, nor through any message purporting to come from Paul and his team of servants. Such trickery would aim to deceive the Thessalonians into believing that the Lord's coming is at their doorstep, thus scaring them and perturbing their faith. Paul had never said that Christ's coming was imminent; that is what some had understood, leading to many adverse consequences manifested in their conduct.
Paul refers to the primary sign, namely: "the falling away" which should come first and is accompanied by what he calls (1) "the man of sin"(2), (2) "the son of perdition", (3) "who opposes", (4) who "exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped"(3), so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God"(4), (5) "the lawless one", and (6) whose coming "is according to the working of Satan", (also, the evil one, the liar and father of liars, who is behind all the last plans of opposition and aggression) "and with all unrighteous deception" armed "with all power, signs, and lying wonders."
Naturally, he will be believed only by those slated for perdition, who had rejected salvation by rejecting the love of truth (1 Peter 1:1,2), and because of their straying away from - and their abandonment of - God, they will believe even obvious lies. Whereas those "who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" will be condemned (2:11), "the Lord will consume" the lawless one, the son of perdition "with the breath of His mouth and (will) destroy (him) with the brightness of His coming." (2:8)
Saint Paul reminds them that he had addressed this issue during his Sabbath sermons, while he was still with them (Acts 17:1-4). He also says that, for everything under the sun, there is an appointed time determined by the word and power of God. Finally, he says that, through the work of Satan, "... the mystery of lawlessness is already at work ... and then the lawless one will be revealed ..." In the final battle, the Omnipotent God will prevail over all, and believers will revel in His victory.
(To be contd.)
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On the occasion of the fast of the Advent of Christ
St Cyril the Great: On Incarnation of the Son of God
The Mystery that is in Christ,
Is a Beginning of Our Union with God.
The Only-begotten, then, proceeding from the very Substance of God the Father, and having entirely in His own nature Him That begat Him, became Flesh according to the Scripture, blending Himself, as it were, with our nature by an unspeakable combination and union with this body that is earthly; and thus He That is God by nature became, and is in truth, a Man from heaven… in order that, uniting as it were in Himself things widely opposed by nature, and adverse to fusion with each other, He might enable man to share and partake of the nature of God. For even unto us has reached the fellowship and abiding Presence of the Spirit, which originated through Christ and in Christ first, when He is in fact become even as we are, that is, a Man, receiving unction and sanctification, though He is by nature God. ...
The Mystery, then, that is in Christ is become, as it were, a beginning and a way whereby we may partake of the Holy Spirit and union with God.
On John 17, 20-21;.LFC 2, 549.
(1) The city of Thessalonica was founded around 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedonia, on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma (meaning "hot springs") and twenty-six other local villages. King Cassander named the new city after his wife Thessaloniki, a half-sister of Alexander the Great. Therma, a harbor with a strategic location, had been used by the Persian king Xerxes as a springboard for his invasion of Europe; its strategic importance continued during Roman rule.
(2) We draw on some of the Lord's words concerning end-of-time signs, and His warnings in this regard: "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." (Mat. 24:24 and Mark 13:22) Saint John also writes: "... and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour ... He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:18-22) He also said: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." (2 John: 7) And: " .. .and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." (1 John 4:3)
(3) These words lead to our recollection of what Daniel the Prophet said concerning Antiochus Epiphanes: "... he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, ... He shall regard neither the God of his fathers ... nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all." (Daniel 11:36 & 37)
(4) In the past, Antiochus Epiphanes defiled the temple of Jerusalem by erecting an altar, in its sanctuary, for the god Zeus; in the New Testament, Caligula also erected for himself a statue in the temple. Both of them deified themselves!