“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
Over recent years there have been many false doctrines that have shaken believers around the world, and thousands of them have never recovered from the spiritual snares they got caught up in. False teachings cause confusion, and it was no different in Paul’s day. The Thessalonian Christians had been misled into believing that their persecution was evidence that the rapture had all ready happened and they had been left behind to suffer the wrath of God. Their faith had been rocked by this lie.
They needed to sit down and think this through. If Christ had already come, and they had been left behind, surely those teaching such a theory have been left behind too. In his opening statement of this chapter Paul makes it clear that the Return of Christ and the Rapture are future rather than past events. John Wesley, like many of his day, believed in the Rapture of the Church, “Our gathering together to him – In the clouds.” Therefore the teaching is not a product of John Darby or Mary McDonald in the 19th century as some suggest.
He calls them “brethren” to indicate, that despite what the false teachers were saying, they truly belonged to Christ and that he is their brother in the Lord also. The Lord will not leave behind those who belong to Him but will gather them up into His presence, and they will stand before the Bema Judgement Seat. “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10) … “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) … “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Since this has not happened, it is proof that Christ has not already come.
It is sad to see people shaken, troubled, and perplexed by false doctrine when all they need to do is go back to the word of God. Because some are not well grounded in Scripture, they are soon shaken by error. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6) … “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). 2 Timothy 2:16-18 may actually tell us the names of the false teachers who were troubling the churches, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”
It is also sad to see how quickly people forget the good teaching they have already received. The Thessalonians quickly forgot what Paul had already taught them on the subject of the Return of Christ. “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4). It is disheartening for any pastor to see people falling for error despite the sound teaching they have received. “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:5).
We do not know how the false doctrines came to Thessalonica. It is possible that “by spirit” refers to some kind of, but false, prophetic utterance. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). It is also possible that the term “by word” indicates that the false teachers managed to come into direct contact with the believers and claim they were speaking on behalf of Christ. Because of what Paul writes in these verses, it seems that he did not know which way the false teachers influenced the believers. Nevertheless, it appears more likely that a forged letter was sent which claimed to be from Paul, since he makes a point in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 of saying that the present letter is genuine, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”
Some say it does not matter what we believe about the Second Coming of Christ. Such a notion was alien to Paul’s understanding of Last Day events, including the Rapture of the Church. He took the whole matter very seriously, and so should we. While there are minor issues regarding the timing of these events, we cannot accept those who teach that the Lord has already come or that He will never return to catch away His people.