[EDITORS NOTE: In 1990, Don K. Preston published his first book, II Peter 3: The Late Great Kingdom as an exposition of what was being described by the apostle Peter in his letter and the extent to which millions misunderstood the message completely. This book was later revised and expanded in 2012 in the book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat and is available at www.bibleprophecy.com for just $17.95. In his booklet In Flaming Fire, Don Preston discusses the events described by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians. This booklet is available for just $3.95 and together both books tell the amazing story and expectations of first-century believers]
IN FLAMING FIRE 🔥
“And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. (2Thes.1:7-10).
Wow! What an incredible passage!
An incredible prediction. Its all about the end of time at some point in the future, right?
Well actually, believe it or not there’s a very real problem with applying this incredible prophecy to a yet future, literal coming of Christ at the end of time.
Now that may shock you at first -So let’s take a revealing look at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1 does pose a huge threat to the belief in a future coming of the Lord if the proper rules of hermeneutics are ignored or distorted to make the passage apply to your future and mine.
Consider the basic rules of journalism and hermeneutics as you consider these verses.
Who is writing, who is he writing to, who is he writing about? Paul is writing -who is Paul writing about?
He wrote to “the church of the Thessalonians (2:Thes. 1:1).He wrote about those persecuting the Thessalonians.
Pretty simple and clear right?
What does Paul say? Answer:he is writing to tell them that he is aware of their faith and their suffering and is offering them hope in the midst of that suffering (v.4).
He told them that they were going to get relief from their persecution and suffering (v.7).
When was Paul writing and when does he apply his writings? In the first century. No problem there.
However, the next question begins to raise some issues.
When did Paul say that the Thessalonians would receive the relief that he was promising them?
When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven. Now do you see the problem?
I suspect about now that you “see the train coming!
Where are the events to take place, and where were/are they to take place?
Answer: In the world of the Thessalonians.
How does the author describe the events? How will they be fulfilled?
Answer: The Thessalonians would be given relief from their persecution by the revelation of Christ from heaven (v7).
Why does the author write? Why does he say what he says? Why will the events he describes occur?
Answer: Paul is clearly writing to living breathing humans to assure them that THEY are about to receive relief from their suffering.
Here’s the question that we have to ask even though it will probably challenge your traditional beliefs to the core just as it did mine.
Did Jesus come in the lifetime of the Thessalonians and give the Thessalonians relief from the persecution that they were,at the time experiencing? Yes or No?
If you answer “No, Jesus did not come in the lifetime of the Thessalonians and He did not give them relief from their persecution- this means that Paul made a false prediction.
Go back and read the inspired text again and ask yourself this basic question one more time.
Was Paul writing to the 1st-century church in Thessalonica? Sure, he was.
Were they being persecuted at that time? Yes, they were.
Did Paul promise them relief from that persecution? No doubt about it.
Did he say relief would come, ” when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven? He most assuredly did!
If you are like me and believe in the absolute inspiration of scripture and the Deity of Christ -you cannot accept that Jesus’ own apostle was mistaken, misguided, or wrong in his predictions. I believe Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what he did, don’t you?
So how do we solve the problem?
If Paul was writing to living Christians, and he was.
And if those Christians were being persecuted, and they were.
And if Paul promised those living Christians relief from that persecution “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven” and he did.
Then if Jesus did not come in the lifetime of those living Christians and give them relief from that persecution, as Paul promised, then Paul lied to them and gave them false hope. His prediction failed, and he is guilty of being a false prophet!
That is the problem of the text and it’s unavoidable.
There really is no doubt about what Paul said: So, was he wrong? No, he wasn’t. The problem is us.
The problem is not allowing ourselves to understand the background for what Paul is saying, that is probably not our fault.
We have been taught and indoctrinated if you will read Thessalonians through Christian eyes, and not through the eyes of Paul ” proclaiming the fulfillment of Israel’s last day prophecies” and the fulfillment of the “hope of Israel” being played out in Judah’s last days through the eyes of Paul, the preacher “of the hope of Israel.”
To apply 2 Thessalonians 1 to a future coming of the Lord is to say that the epistle addressed to the church of God at Thessalonica, written 2000 years ago, “had no relevance whatsoever to the very people whom it was addressed. This would be like saying you received a letter from the IRS, promising you relief from all tax liability. Yet when you try to take advantage of that, the IRS tells you that the letter has nothing to do with you, but some generation of citizens 2000 years into the future. In other words, in order to turn 2 Thessalonians 1:4f into a prediction of yet a future coming of the Lord, you have to ignore or distort every rule of proper interpretation. Isn’t that a bit dangerous? Paul was not wrong; he was not deluded. He was inspired and the Bible text is completely trustworthy.