2 Thessalonians 2:1-2
The Essential Teaching of Our Lord’s Return
Scholars do not think that Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians arrived long after his first, because like the first, the same doctrinal problem is addressed, namely, matters concerning our Lord’s return. In that these two letters are among Paul’s earliest, it should be instructive for us that the preaching of our Lord’s return was central to the gospel from the beginning; Christians have ever been a people waiting for the return of their beloved Savior and Lord.
The Thessalonians had apparently received some communication from somewhere that the day of the Lord had already come. It certainly is true that our Lord’s first coming and subsequent seating at the right hand of power has inaugurated the Kingdom and that we now live in this time of grace in which the Spirit births anew those who are being saved making them a present kingdom of priests reigning with Christ in the heavenly places even now (Ephesians 1:20). Still, the consummation of our Lord’s reign awaits its ultimate fulfillment when he returns and we reign with him in glory. Incidentally, we have had “theologians” for many years now who take such a position, that is, they deny our Lord’s literal return and speak instead in nonsensical language about his “eternal coming” or other such unbiblical contortions. We’ve been warned: “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’’’ (2 Peter 3:4). So we should not be surprised that people then and now scoff and laugh at this central teaching of our faith: “A god coming on the clouds of heaven to gather his chosen ones and one day reign upon the earth? You believe that?” Well yes, we do. And we find it no more “fantastic” than his resurrection. One cannot read the New Testament and not sense how these doctrines were the lifeblood of the early church. To reject the literal second coming of Christ is to reject the gospel and to rob people of the hope it brings. It was this hope that the Thessalonians were worried they had somehow missed, and one can easily imagine how shattered one would be if one thought such a thing.
There is no doubt that some become consumed with this doctrine of the faith and begin going places where Scripture commands us not to go, such as suggesting dates. Our Lord now reigns in our hearts and if we die before he comes, “we shall be with him in paradise.” Still, the blessed hope that he shall one day stand upon the earth and that we shall reign with him in a kingdom of righteousness and peace—Oh what a day!